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In the streetlight’s glow I see a trail of brightness slant
across a flagstone path from one damp patch of earth

to another half-hidden by spent daisies —
and I imagine all I need for safety is to make myself small

and round, grow armor, grow eye-stalk horns, a single, sticky
foot on which to ripple secret to wet secret under cover of night.

Beneath the sun’s accusing stare I’ll tuck my soft self small
inside my spiral shield, cling to the cool side of a stoneware bowl

and wait for night to come again. What
do I dream of, waiting out the day? Leaves and petals

moist and sweet. A thunderstorm. Or silver
crisscrossed messages: news of my borrowed kind.

Curled in my spiral world, sheltered from the human
gnash and squeal of what I’ve left behind, I hear

the hours tick past. When shadows spread and thicken,
when there’s no sound but dogs in the distance, flap

and flutter of a plastic bag tossed by the gritty wind, when
passing headlights probe the night, crown lights winking

red and blue, and pass on by. When the asphalt
river empties, beckons, flat and black,

cross now.
This is as safe as it gets.

Sara McAulay is the author of three novels and numerous works of short fiction (Black Warrior Review, California Quarterly, Mid-American Review, Third Coast, ZYZZYVA, among others). She received NEA and NJ State Council on the Arts Fellowships in prose. She has recently turned to poetry, with work published or forthcoming in Hole in the Head Review, Pine Row, Rise Up, and Synkroniciti. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with the world’s smartest and most beautiful Australian Shepherd dog.

© 2022, Sara McAulay

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