Bitch

By Carolyn Kizer b. 1925 Carolyn Kizer
Now, when he and I meet, after all these years,
I say to the bitch inside me, don’t start growling.   
He isn’t a trespasser anymore,
Just an old acquaintance tipping his hat.
My voice says, “Nice to see you,”
As the bitch starts to bark hysterically.
He isn’t an enemy now,
Where are your manners, I say, as I say,
“How are the children? They must be growing up.”   
At a kind word from him, a look like the old days,   
The bitch changes her tone; she begins to whimper.   
She wants to snuggle up to him, to cringe.
Down, girl! Keep your distance
Or I’ll give you a taste of the choke-chain.
“Fine, I’m just fine,” I tell him.
She slobbers and grovels.
After all, I am her mistress. She is basically loyal.   
It’s just that she remembers how she came running   
Each evening, when she heard his step;
How she lay at his feet and looked up adoringly   
Though he was absorbed in his paper;
Or, bored with her devotion, ordered her to the kitchen   
Until he was ready to play.
But the small careless kindnesses
When he’d had a good day, or a couple of drinks,
Come back to her now, seem more important
Than the casual cruelties, the ultimate dismissal.
“It’s nice to know you are doing so well,” I say.
He couldn’t have taken you with him;
You were too demonstrative, too clumsy,
Not like the well-groomed pets of his new friends.   
“Give my regards to your wife,” I say. You gag
As I drag you off by the scruff,
Saying, “Goodbye! Goodbye! Nice to have seen you again.”

Carolyn Kizer, “Bitch” from Mermaids in the Basement. Copyright © 1984 by Carolyn Kizer. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

Source: Poetry (December 1983).

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This poem originally appeared in the December 1983 issue of Poetry magazine

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December 1983
 Carolyn  Kizer

Biography

Poet, essayist, and translator Carolyn Kizer was born in 1925 in Spokane, Washington. Raised by a prominent lawyer and highly educated mother, Kizer’s childhood was suffused with poetry. Of her development as a poet, she noted to the Poetry Society of America: “My parents were both romantics: father favored the poems of [John] Keats; mother went for [Walt] Whitman. No evening of my childhood passed without my being read to. But . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Friends & Enemies, Living, Disappointment & Failure, Separation & Divorce, Relationships, Men & Women

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

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