A figure lifting flattened cardboard boxes
out of her car across from the post office

and next to the used bookstore, sloped shoulders,
head riding forward, a figure

I knew once which is what one says in small towns
where people do not move away just out

of your life, slipping from sight the way the old season
slips to the new, rain, warm days, then settling

to rain. The Carmelite nun,
one brown sock, one white, accenting her habit,

slept across from me in the doctor’s office,
needle in her arm, her hands twisted

as mine are not. What did she see when she looked
at me? My hubris, my healthier than you,

my fear I am not, the IV bag dripping into both of us
setting up roadblocks, pleading

Do Not Enter. And listening to my friend
I was startled when I heard her saying what I’d said

in my dream, afraid of being found out,
afraid someone would know I knew nothing. The light

was low. Changeling, I could have stepped
into her body but stepped away. Now I was alone

at twilight crossing into the woods
where night was beginning to settle. I was afraid

and saw the mastiff whose face had seemed kind,
how it lunged through the gate

and grabbed my dog by the throat. I used my knees,
my fists. I screamed until the neighbor ran out,

both of us wrestling, hitting the bigger dog
who would not loosen its grip until the neighbor

bit her dog, bit its ear, the grip of its rage loosening,
all of us lying spent in the darkening woods.

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