Animals

The phone call, from my wife.
She’s hungry, she’s pregnant,
someone kicked her
 
in the stomach—we have to.
I say yes, but the reply
I keep to myself is,
 
 We don’t have to do a goddamn thing.
A dog. I’m talking about a dog
I would have otherwise left to starve.
 
Now though, five years since,
I love this animal, Lucy,
more than I can most people.
 
               Ÿ•
 
A boy names his dog and five cats
after our Lucy. The boy, my brother,
born in Henry Ford’s hometown,
 
lives now in Lebanon,
which the Greeks called Phoenicia,
and they tried but failed
 
to subdue it, same as the Egyptians,
Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians,
Alexander the Great, Romans, Arabs,
 
Crusaders, Turks, the British,
the French, the Israelis.
There, my father built a house
 
with money earned in Detroit—
as a grocer, with social security.
Also there, the first alphabet
 
was created, the first law school built,
the first miracle of Jesus—
water, wine.
 
               Ÿ•
 
On the first day
the bombs fall they flee
and the boy asks
 
to go back for Lucy,
the dog. As for the cats,
No. They take care of themselves.
 
One week into it
he wonders who feeds them,
who fills the water bowls.
 
Maybe the neighbors,
the mother thinks out loud.
The father is indignant: Neighbors
 
what neighbors? They’re gone.
The mother is stunned:
What do you mean, gone?
 
After a month, everyone forgets
or just stops talking about
the animals. During the ceasefire
 
my father drives south,
a thirty-minute trip that lasts
six hours—wreckage upon wreckage
 
piled on the roads, on what is left
of the roads. The landscape
entirely gray, so catastrophic
 
he asks a passerby how far
to his town and is told,
You’re in it.
 
               Ÿ Ÿ•
 
My father finds three of the cats,
all perforated, one headless.
The dog is near the carport,
 
where it hid during lightning storms,
its torso splayed in half
like meat on a slab, its entrails
 
eaten by other dogs
scavenging on the streets.
Look. They’re animals.
 
Which is to say, there are also people.
And I haven’t even begun telling you
what was done to them.
 

Hayan Charara, "Animals" from Something Sinister.  Copyright © 2016 by Hayan Charara.  Reprinted by permission of Carnegie Mellon University Press.
Source: Something Sinister (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2016)
More Poems by Hayan Charara