Eating Animals

The neighbor’s dog eats chickens whole

out in the courtyard, sometimes even

a slab of beef, “beef”: a word that means

cow for eating. I have to buy things

for M to bite so she won’t think so much

about meat. I used to believe that

chickens (animal) were different from

chicken (food), a word with unrelated

meanings like bark or bat

or desert. Once, I saw a chicken

accidentally step on one of her eggs

and scream,

her skinny red foot dripping in runny yolk.

She smelled death. M is most relaxed when

chewing or ripping

something apart. We live together

in a building, on an avenue, in a city

humans built.

I take her to the corner and around the block.

I show her where to sleep. I open and shut doors

to keep her in or out.

At night she settles on each corner of the bed,

resting on my legs, on my chest, at my feet.

You’re her whole world, someone said to me

when I first brought her home. I grimaced,

swallowed hard to get the taste of it

out of my mouth.

Nisha Atalie is a writer from the Pacific Northwest based in Chicago. She is a poetry editor at Masks literary magazine and her poems have been published in Columbia Poetry ReviewLandLockedTiger Moth Review, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the 2021 Eileen Lannan Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets.