Poetry Break

“The Dog You Feed”

by Emma Bolden

from South Writ Large
The 9:00 news spills the blood
of my sisters, my brothers, spills
the blood by which we are all fleshed

and familied. How long, I worry, until
the wound is mine, because I don’t
love right, look right, because I don’t

speak right, truth right, because my
country has bricked and mortared
a room for me and I can’t find a way

to walk through its door. Sometimes
it feels as if barking up the branches
of my lungs are two dogs, one who

whimpers, sweet, who listens not with ears
but with a heart ready to hold and to hurt,
to care, to give, forgive. The other

dog howls at my enemy’s throat, wants
them to speak the tart language of blood,
wants the fang and drain to be justice, as if

I have the right to harm because I hurt.
How many times can a cheek turn if the other
cheek is pressed against the wall?

And if there is a God above us, among
us, if there is a God within this illusion
of cloud, cry and bone, this is what makes him

God: that he could number in love each
finger on these two hands even before
they have chosen which dog to feed.

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