Engine, or What I Am Learning from the Animals

August in Mississippi and everything is turning 
atmosphere. My sunglasses fog. My hair clouds. 
On the porch, the board game left out overnight 

warps like heat waves rising. Everywhere, green—  
crepe myrtles, kudzu, moss, vines, sapling-weeds 
thick as thumbs. When I say wildness 

thrives here, I mean I’m afraid to step outside 
in the morning. I mean I’m afraid to walk 
into my dark kitchen at night. So many lives 

drinking this wet air, growing longer, leggier 
in the heat. Lizard in the linen closet, cockroach 
flickering under bedroom door. Centipede 

brazen on the porch swing, too thick to smash. 
Orbweavers thread every acreage of this state—
golden, orchard, starbelly. Is it even Mississippi

asked a friend, if you don’t get a spider or four 
in the face every time you go out? But lately 
I’m telling myself to go out anyway, to walk 

down the dark hall barefoot. Lately I’m trying 
to save my fear for what matters. Look at its engine 
inside me, how it revs my heart. What laziness 

to waste its heat on small beasts when
there’s so much to melt down: deliberate cruelty, 
AR-15s, the phrase the benefit of your views

Dear animals, teach me. You know how 
to turn fear to fuel. I’ve seen you rebuild 
the wrecked web thread by thread, watched you 

scurry behind the baseboard with two legs 
gone. Sometimes the engine inside me 
stalls out—so many news alerts, the flags 

full time at half-mast—but you keep going, keep
going. Just yesterday a lizard darted out 
from under my bed. Too slow, I caught 

only its tail with a glass. The tail twitched 
for a few minutes, but the lizard, busy 
with the work of survival, never looked back.

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