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  • On Earning My Emergency Preparedness Merit Badge, and: Combo, Per the Norm, and: Hircine
  • Barbara Duffey (bio)

On Earning My Emergency Preparedness Merit Badge

I started well. I asked, “Are you ok ?” I listened at its mouth for breath—there was none. I tilted

back its head to clear its airways. I took its pulse; again, nothing. I held closed its nose and breathed twice

in its mouth. I crouched above its chest and marked my place on its spring-loaded sternum with three fingers, two of which

I took away so I could cradle the heel of my hand where my last finger had been. I pressed down. I counted,

“and one and two and three and four,” but I didn’t finish in time. The volunteer fireman said to me, “He’d be dead

by now. So what do you think? Should I certify you?” I knew if I did what I’d done as slowly as I’d done it,

to someone who really was in trouble, I wouldn’t save her. I knew that if she seemed to be in trouble, I wouldn’t even

get up and offer that I knew cpr . I knew that, were there others in the room, especially grown-ups, I would act like I didn’t know

what cpr was. But he gave me my card, as if to say, to know emergency, you must know tardiness, you must know shame. [End Page 114]

Combo, Per the Norm

Crosswords #5

Torrents bewitch the Aswan, hew its arc as it kisses them. I am a crack in the thermal, one bark from panic, an elk on an icecap when I wade into eros, but I adore you, my net, as you grab —ahem—my ticklish knee and market your deal until I agree on the sale, and nod at your sweet menace. A swami once said that da Vinci would never reach his acme since he saw the rarest pig in the smoke from the censer, but eras wiggle past with no sign of lending him their obscurity. Ah, so the scorepad stands against predestination, fortunes all shown to be skits in the Big Apple. Eos breaks on our bed, on the labs that show just how much is left to chance, love. No need to nag, poke, or plan: Let’s occur.


I dug through yards of disintegrating feces around the ruins of the temple’s outbuilding, all decked out in goat shit dust. Petros herded the mumbling goats across the island each day at one, and they’d stop dead in their tracks with surprise at the sight of us excavating in their old pen. [End Page 115] That’s why goats will never become famous archaeologists: How can you recall what your species did those four thousand years ago without remembering what happened yesterday? When they stared at us, their smell would slowly waft across the site and the dung would liven up at the smell of its makers, whom we ate for dinner: goat flank in tomato sauce with pasta, fried goat livers, roast goat rib with a squeeze of lemon juice and flaked oregano. I remembered this bleating white yearling before my body absorbed his goatness, carried his flesh home in me to Gotham, the city’s name shortened from goat hamlet, the only town where goats are my neighbors, pressing my doorbell with their cloven hoofs, mingling with me in the produce section. I tell myself that what makes us different are the kouros heads embedded in walls, the intricate etchings to Athena on the marble bowl, the itch to dig up these artifacts and put them on display on white pedestals in the museum. Yet the goats remind me they invented tragedy, its Greek name meaning goat-song, and I must acknowledge their aptitude for art when I step in the theater, continue the human tragedy of knowing an animal too thoroughly. [End Page 116]

Barbara Duffey

Barbara Duffey’s poems have appeared in the Indiana Review, Blue Mesa Review, and Epicenter. She lives in Salt Lake City, where she is a Vice-Presidential Fellow in the Ph.D. program in poetry writing...


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pp. 114-116
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