by Sherine Elise Gilmour

I wasn't sure I had it in me, to love another, no matter what.
Night, a link of kielbasa, can of beans,
listening to myself chew,
as the curtains turned ember-red in the empty house.
When I could no longer hold myself still in the quiet,
I went to my bedroom, my first pet, my little burrowing sweetheart—
a domestic hooded rat. I scooped her from the cage,
rubbed her smooth fur, held her to my face,
her pink nose stretched toward my breath,
her grip tight like little bites, strong and clinging,
as she scrambled onto my chest.
I slid my finger down her tail, and we’d walk up the stairs
to the bathroom. She could drink
from the sink while I brushed my teeth.
Then, I carried her back to bed,
her eyes gleaming, curious and terrified,
her little vibrating ribs in my hand. She with no ground
beneath her feet, only cloth. The only moment
in the day I felt relaxed. I listened to the tick-tick
as the soft earth sucked the house in deeper.
Her softness, my tiny rat, curled between my breasts—
it was so easy, and I loved myself for loving her.

Sherine Elise Gilmour graduated with an M.F.A. in Poetry from New York University. She was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming from Green Mountains Review, Many Mountains Moving, Paterson Literary Review, River Styx, So To Speak, and other journals.

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