Volume 68, Number 2 · Spring 2019

Labor Day

we’re in the pool with a handful of friends, old and new—
drove twenty miles out of town to dip into this blue pocket at the top
of a ninety-degree afternoon,
the friend who lives in the farmhouse greeting us with chilled wine,
a black puppy sleek and yapping beside her.    he adopted me, she smiles.

the dog tries putting his jaws around my wrist, and I yelp, like I read
you’re supposed to do. he looks alarmed, drops me, apologizes with his eyes, his red tongue.    you’re good at that, says the friend, and I tell her I’ve been doing it
for months at home with my own dog.

except there are times I forget to yelp, get pulled into a sweet wrestle of (pony)tail and coiled knees on the ground,
like you’re not supposed to do.    remember, you’re a human.

we sip and eat the salsas and pies the friends have brought and laid on the table.
one woman says snakes are making homes in pool noodles now, and we peek into
the foam ends of ours, feign nervousness. but we admit it’s ingenious.
imagine finding a perfectly human-shaped room in another creature’s nest—
I’d slither in too.

when the trees swallow the last of the sun, we turn on the pool lights and become
bellies and limbs suspended in a green glowing rectangle.
coyotes start up a hollering racket not far away.
we feel loose, open-mouthed. it’s hard work remembering to be human,
and that’s what we’re here to celebrate today, with chlorine and grill
at the edge of a wild we crave.

Irène P. Mathieu is a pediatrician, writer, and public health researcher at the University of Virginia. Her most recent book is Grand Marronage (Switchback Books, 2019), which was selected as Editor’s Choice for the Gatewood Prize and runner-up for the Cave Canem/Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize. She is also the author of orogeny (Trembling Pillow Press, 2017), which won the Bob Kaufman Book Prize, and the galaxy of origins (dancing girl press, 2014). Irène is a recipient of Fulbright, Callaloo, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts fellowships, and is on the editorial staff of Muzzle Magazine and the Journal of General Internal Medicine’s humanities section.