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
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
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 Review, LandLocked, Tiger Moth Review, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the 2021 Eileen Lannan Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets.