Dog Woman

By Chris Abani b. 1967 Chris Abani
It’s like flying in your dreams, she said. You empty
Yourself out and just lift off. Soar. It’s like that.

                                       *

Red.               Red.                Red.

          Just that word. Sometimes.

                                       *

Yang & Yin. Like twins tumbling through summer.
        He, the rooster crowing sun; desperate—afraid—
                   As only men can be.

And Yin? Let’s say she has long hair—
          No, that won’t work. If we are to believe
the ancient Chinese, she was a dog
                          howling moon.

                                       *

When I counted out the pills, it was a slowing down.
          Like the delay between when the car goes through
the dip and your stomach falls away—
                          And won’t stop.

                                       *

Of course it was because she didn’t fit my mold.
So I punished her. And why? And why? And why?
          You did it, I said. You did it.
Wouldn’t fill my world.

                                       *

And eventually we all kill our mothers.
Their eyes a tenderness that doesn’t flinch
          from it. Knowing. Eventually.
       
                                       *

What else is there?

                                       *

Paula’s paintings are real. The women thick, visceral,
like stubborn cliffs the sea cannot contain—or drown.

                                       *

Or dogs. And such as these drove Homer to despair—
And his cry: Oh to see! To see! To see!

                                       *

So Paula says: To be a dog woman is bestial is good.
          Eating, snarling.
Utterly believable.
                                   Gross.

                                       *

Like when Cesaria Evora breaks your heart with a smile
          all melancholy and sea and salt.

                                   Assim ’m ta pidi mar
                                   Pa ’l leva ’me pa ’me ca voeta

And it doesn’t matter that you don’t know what
          the words mean. Some things are beyond that.

                                       *

So. Tanya bought the record because Cesaria’s face
          is beautiful with all the lost love of the world
and darker than the blue of the sun setting over the Atlantic.

                                       *

It’s in the angle of light washing her hair
with sun into a puddle that catches in the throat

The wood deck creaks from the weight
of all that air and sun and silence
Water chuckling in the tiny fountain in the corner
holding up the song of wind chimes and flies

And it’s all here. Fire. Water. Stone. Wood.

                                       *

All caught up in Yeats and the cuckoo
          that wasn’t a real bird but cried
with all the agony of the desire for flight
hemmed by wooden wings, and springs and cogs.

I think.

                                       *

Or looking for Rilke—
          How the panther is like the rage
of a doll’s soul caught in the body: but
to say: under an open window, a violin

Accomplishment though is another matter—
Just ask Baudelaire and so I
          thought I could do it.

Necromancer, necromancer, necromancer
          make me a mate
only one of my ribs pray take.

So why won’t women fit into that space?

                                       *

Is that why in the photograph David plays
an inflatable lyre? Does his smile make it all artifice?

                                       *

But life is this and it will not
be contained. The Igbo say:
No one can outrun their shadow.
And this is good. This is hope.
Because, or maybe, we cannot outrun love.

                                       *

To drive down a road, she said. Until it stops
at the edge of the sea. An ocean vast and immense,
she said. If you are lucky, she said. It fills you.

Chris Abani, “Dog Woman” from Dog Woman. Copyright © 2004 by Chris Abani. Reprinted by permission of Red Hen Press.

Source: Dog Woman (Red Hen Press, 2004)

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Poet Chris Abani b. 1967

POET’S REGION Africa

Subjects Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Music, Painting & Sculpture, Mythology & Folklore

 Chris  Abani

Biography

Chris Abani is part of a new generation of Nigerian writers working to convey to an English-speaking audience the experience of those born and raised in that troubled African nation. Abani began writing at a very young age and published his first novel, Masters of the Board, while still a teenager. The plot of the novel, a political thriller, proved uncomfortably close to actual events; it mirrored a coup that was carried out in . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Music, Painting & Sculpture, Mythology & Folklore

POET’S REGION Africa

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