The Pulley

for Abby Wender

I never had a pet
except children,
fed and watered them,
cheered for them
when they surprised me,
went into open water
to pull them to safety.

We like to curl up
in a messy nest,
lick each other’s wounds,
howl when the sirens go.

They changed from little lizards,
into squirrels, into horses
blowing softly into my hand
when I offered them food.

We talked in the car,
faces forward,
about everything—
why do clouds float
so easily into the sky,
how do turtles
climb out of their shells?

Then the children became
experts, designing
houses out of branch coral
and clocks in the form of chariots,
and now they’re far away
and now we’re all waiting
for when we can fly again,
breathe the same air.



Click here to read Cammy Thomas on the origin of the poem.

Image: photo by Tanaphong Toochinda on Unsplash, licensed under CC 2.0.

Cammy Thomas:
I was at a poetry retreat with a few friends. Somehow we started talking about childhood pets, and one of us said, “I never had a pet… except children.” We all laughed, and as I remember, someone said that would make a good first line. So — I accepted the challenge. Then I spun out the ways in which children are like pets, and then spun out further, wanting to keep the poem mostly outdoors, with the dogs and children. I was also taking Geoffrey Nutter’s online poetry workshop at the time, and we were using a lot of random lists, pulling words sideways into our poems. “Branch coral,” for example, was a phrase I found, liking both the sound, and the image, with its suggestion of living things moving forward and expanding outward, as families do.

Cammy Thomas
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