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The Small Sound of Quiet Animals

The night returns humid, sweating through

the damp curtains, then settles at the baseboards,

beginning the pool of evening.

The single expensive vase, its tulip face now

dark, tilts odd-angled on the desk, asks

for the smallest provocation (it’s waited

all day to explode). You give it none.

Your cat is sleeping the shape of answers

into the only comfortable chair,

but let him sleep

because he dreams. His haunches shake.

See the smile of his bared teeth?


The man you lived with leaves a note

Scotch-taped to the lampshade. Gone to Minnesota.

Please feed myfish. Here’s fifteen dollars …

In bed, you smell his boots, leather and sweat

rising from the dark closet doorway.

You think of Blue Earth, Pemberton, Pipestone

and Mankato, his bike a white spot whistling

up the serpentine highway into Minnesota,

the fat, widowed farmers drinking anisette

in municipal bars. You think of their woman

and daughters, straight-backed, Nordic. How they

lie down like angels, Lutheran as the plains.


Something bangs in the radiator, heavier

than heat, reminds you how all things

speak, how small sounds come even

from quiet animals. A dresser drawer closes

rooms away. Your Jehovah landlord with a key

to the place? The sisters who fight

over men a floor below? You don’t fall

into sleep. No splash, no ripple

to disturb the surface. Kneel into the water,

watch the outline of your leg disappear,

then finger, forearm and elbow. Curl yourself

fetal on the empty bed. The shape of a fist.

from InfantaFind it in the library

Copyright © 1995 Erin Belieu
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Published in Erin Belieu Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.