Zeus by Daisy Alioto

I am sitting in the window of a Starbucks in Tribeca when a man asks me to watch his stuff while he goes to the bathroom. He tells me he just spent the night in jail. “I told the younger guys in there, every time your mother washes your clothes she’s thinking about the day you were born,” he says. I don’t know how to respond, I tell him they were lucky to hear that.

I think about when my father won custody of my little sister. I walked past her room one day to see my mother packing my sister’s clothes. She was holding two socks and rolling them together. The tenderness of this gesture was unbearable.

When I was in college, I was driving on a road in rural Maine when an orange cat darted out in front of my vehicle. I screamed as I felt the dull thud beneath me. It wasn’t far from the cabin where my family was staying and my mother and stepdad drove to meet me. My mother told me to get in their car and I sat there and shook as she walked around my car with a blanket and flashlight, looking for blood in the axles.

Last weekend, my friend told me that an acquaintance has killed three consecutive dogs of the same name. One fell off a boat, one got hit by a car, and I’m not sure what happened to the third one. I asked her to tell me the name of the dog so that I would never use it. She said the dog’s name was Zeus.

When my mother won back custody of my sister, my dad mailed all of her stuff home in one large box. Everything inside was tangled. Necklaces and shoelaces. Shampoo spilled over sweaters. Some of it wasn’t salvageable.

That night in Maine I saw an orange cat run off into the woods. My mother walked back to her car, still holding the flashlight. She told me there was no blood and no body. It’s just hard to believe your eyes sometimes.

Daisy Alioto is a writer, cultural critic and union member living in the Hudson Valley. Her poetry has been published in Triangle House Review and The Christian Science Monitor.

Photo is cropped from an original by Karim Manjra.

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