My parents were not overly concerned with germs
Nine-year-old shoulders pinned
by the spattered forepaws
of my Dalmatian, I submitted
to a cleaning. His cheese-scented
tongue alternately flicked and lingered
over cloth and skin, sluicing out
the crevices where flesh met flesh
and caught the tag ends of my stench.
He stripped away the human
with the teeth he had flattened
chewing rocks in the yard, nibbling
away the fallen hairs at my nape,
grooming my ears as his long-gone
ancestors would have primped
their pups after the wee babies
decimated the feast of regurgitated
deer-meat the wolves had spread
before the gaping mouth of their den.
It occurred to me that I
was something like Daniel;
at home with the inhuman.
Opening the seal at the bone-end
of a three-day fast, the sensible
priests expected mere ribbons.
They had not counted
between lion and God.
Daniel found himself in darkness,
wedged between two forces
each, in their own way, more real
than himself. In such times and places
there is no room for fear of death;
your path is laid for one or the other.
A sensible person would lie
with neither, and so freeze
in the dark.
From a distance, seen from
a little behind and above the left
shoulder, a priest could not tell
love and mauling apart.