Schauffler poem
What Keeps You

Raccoons tangle at night with dogs, crawl behind hydrangeas to die
and the dogs curl into cool dirt bowls to wait for morning.

Animals know edges, memorize them into the roots of their fur
and either die pushing their luck or simply blink, watch, and give out love too much.

You don’t know where to go but some instinct of roads tells you
what to do with your hands: turn and keep straight.

Mountains push against the sky: a tongue to a sore
but where does your country end and who says not to slacken your arm

and let the wheel find you hurtling from earthly turf across that feverish border
that is for some a hot mouth, slick teeth tearing and barking get out,

there are people in that house that love me though I’m chained all day.
What keeps you here could as easily throw you out.

The dog waits for the door to open and the raccoon crawls behind the hydrangea,
now three legged, tired, and having been eye to eye with something unhomeless.

Zanni Schauffler lives in rural Eastern Oregon where she works at the local hospital and writes poems. Her work has been published in The Iowa Review, Field, and Black Warrior Review, among others.

*Photo courtesy of Victoria Antonova/Shutterstock.