Marilyn Kallet

Bodily Harm

When Libby’s twenty-pound boa
struck at the rat, I dropped my tea
on her snowy carpet.

Long as a squirrel, the white rat
had been frozen.
Libby’s husband reheated it
in the microwave (where I had been
thinking of warming my tea.)

Boa embraced her rat dreamily.
If you didn’t know
she was choking what she
thought was a live one,
you would have guessed she adored him.

I warmed to them.
She reminded me of Tom
from Utica, that all-too-tight
embrace, how I’d have to explain
when he caught me talking to a man.
To be fair, we took turns strangling,
being rats.

So that when he came after me,
when the New York State police 
rang me with “we don’t want to 
alarm you, but…”
I was scared, but not stunned.

Luckily he stopped himself
en route with a butcher knife.
Married now, him to a
nurse from Brooklyn, me
to a regular Joe
who doesn’t lunge at pets
we’ve both got all the hugging
we can swallow.