he asks

Someone posted this on a poetry community that I read sometimes, and I am stealing it to put here because:
1. I like it. I like relationship vignette poems, ones that plunk you in the midst of a situation without giving context of characters or history and so exude an aura of greater untold stories and secrets. I might want to read it later and I’m less likely to forget it here than in some random text file on my harddrive.
2. Just last night I was obsessing over the proper way to react to an attack-bent dog.* I just moved into the new place. My roommate was gone for the night and one of her dogs decided that I was a threat, so I barricaded myself in my room while the dog spent the night growling at the one inch crack between my door and the floor. We have since reconciled our differences.

And now, Maura Payne.


He Asks
Maura Payne

Which arm are you going to offer a dog if he attacks you?

He picks up a bag of potatoes in the produce aisle,
looks at me for the answer. I don’t understand this
taking care, but every time I answer


(so I can punch him with my good hand)

In junior high there were specific words for punching

stole “He stole him in the face”
glass “She just walked up and glassed him”
slide “He got a slider—fell back twenty feet”

most of which were performed upside-the-head.

I got out of all my fights by not making my presence known. In 7th
grade, a big girl didn’t want me and Alexa Schatzow changing up in
her locker room because we was so fugly and nasty. I agreed and
took a D in PE. My gym uniform said Rodriguez in magic marker on
the front, under the viking. I bought it used for two bucks off a 9th
grader. Rodriguez, say you fugly and nasty. . . . I, Rodriguez, am fugly
and nasty.

He continues with the bear drill.

Pushing the shopping cart I repeat:
I’m to get under the vehicle.

And don’t try to help me, got it?


I, Rodriguez, will watch shoelaces, asphalt,
and paws while you are mauled to death. Yes.

I imagine blacktop.
I suppose a bear attack would take place
on dirt. And why does he think the truck
would be so nearby? Why wouldn’t
we just both get in the truck and drive away?
This quiz takes place in the frozen food
aisle. My hands are full of 39-cent burritos.

Give him plenty of room.
Resist the urge to run.


*For your convenience, so you don’t have to look it up yourselves:  Do not make eye contact. As the poem says, resist the urge to run. Do not smile, flail, or scream. Back up slowly and wait for rescue. If there is no owner around to save you, try to put at least an inch of door between yourself and the dog.


~ by Not Alice on September 3, 2007.

One Response to “he asks”

  1. REALLY?! I always thought that it was best to try to claim Alpha status – yell with authority and not back down. Huh. I suppose I should look that up, huh? In case I’m ever in that kind of situation….

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