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American Life in Poetry

April Lindner is a poet living in Pennsylvania who has written a number of fine poems about parenting. Here’s an example that shows us just one of the many hazards of raising a child.

Dog Bite

The worst for him was his friend turned wolf,

and the blood that splattered as he ran. The worst

for us: the hospital, his upper lip tugged back

to show the gash – the flesh halved deeply,

cleanly – while I hold him for the needle

that rubs pain out. He submits

to the quick stitch, the thread black

against pink skin, calm now he sees

the doctor can be trusted, his voice

soothing, his face clean shaven,

the clues that signal kindness to a child.

He’s worried, though, about his pet

who didn’t mean it, Mom. His voice is flat.

He knows the months he’s tried to woo this dog

were over when it leapt for his throat

and caught his mouth. The scars, at least,

will be invisible. At home, he’ll sleep,

big boy between his parents, till he’s sure

no beast will tear into his dreams. And we

will want him there, our bodies makeshift walls.

We who led the stranger to our home,

fixed him a bowl, taught him to sleep

under our blankets, we who taught our son

to rub the muzzle that sheathes the teeth.

Poem copyright 2012 by April Lindner from “This Bed Our Bodies Shaped” (Able Muse Press, 2012), and reprinted by permission of the author and publisher. American Life in Poetry is supported by The Poetry Foundation and the English department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.