dawn lonsinger

The room begs to be further inhabited, to have a sun moving in its plaster gut. At moments a decorative urge, the parrot bright and entertaining. At others—a death cry, everything so still and lasting as sandpaper, burning through to your bones with that stillness, where even you are armature, near-couch. You would not be alone. Your love would transfer directly through your hands. Someone pets the linoleum, then you. You pet your lover's head, smooth "I love you" into your child's hair like amniotic fluid, like cellophane around a dome of chopped carrots.

The Maine Coon sits on top of your refrigerator. You are fond of the unusual form following you as if it was your motor. As if an inexact circle was the shape of commitment. A shape you tend. Small box, cylinder, beak of noise, trace of liquid. How it curls in your lap, is impatient in your lap, slithers around your neck, licks your face, tracks up and down your arm, fidgets in your cupped palms, wants in. Even as its eyes swivel, cut through with an alarming precision. Even as we move, like them, constantly. We are hemmed in. The Dalmatian yanks on the leash, cuts off his own airway. Invisible in the pitch-black apartment, they still see, see nothing. A car drives by, headlights flooding their eyes, seen and seeing, saucers filled before falling into silence.

Only the fish remain at a distance, flash like memory through the tank. The basking light burns all night, as in a driveway of twenty years ago, illuminated nets echoing our hooks, mayflies amassed at the surface. A tan Chihuahua with three legs hops up the stairs. A python presses like SPAM against the glass. No one knows why the dove started to pull its feathers out, reveal its pocked skin. The frog doesn't hop. Stuttered gerbil. Shape is no promise. Our hands twist, more or less away. We live in a petting zoo. Touch everything you can get your mind on. Feel for the goat. Don't be stopped by his hyphenated eyes. Don't just touch. Trail that touch, pet—slowly, slowly. He, too, is fascinated with disparity and freedom, rolls a green ball black back and forth in the grass with his nose. Can you hear the whimpering through the packed dirt, through your bent wrists, petting? You pet the carpet where you once slept, and it curls at the edges.



My obsession with tanks & aquariums is undocumented, but vivid; we excavate and lift things for viewing, but they are inextricably altered in that act—the fish no longer a fish of depth, but of fluorescence and solitude; the prisoner diminished to the –er of prison. I have unfo/u/nd memories of being petted as a child, not in a perverse way, but in a caring, sheltering way. Yet, this nonetheless felt ruinous to me. This perversity became more manifest in my family's disquieting inability to tend for pets ::: novel at first, then a chore. There is domestication, leashes, and love.