Animals Doing Things to Other Animals

       Yet again the animals
       are doing things to other animals.

       The sloths make love. It takes
       so long the visitors wander away.

       And the hippo roughly noses
       her calf into the water. She must

       learn how to walk underwater.
       At the great ape exhibit,

       the chimps gather at the glass
       partition, read aloud the sign

       warning not to make eye contact
       with the Homo sapiens within.

       One states the oft-quoted
       fact that humans are the only other

       species that will kill each other.
       The chimps nod knowingly.

       They watch the humans peel
       fruit, smash it into the dirt.

       One chimp nudges her son:
       Look. They’re just like us.

       It is not true, of course:
       lions and ants and dolphins

       all kill their own. We did not invent
       infanticide. But it gives the apes

       something to talk about,
       their conversations rising above

       the smell of dust and fruit.
       The pale hands move frantically

       as if they stand for something
       like love, like language.

Mercy Dog

Red Cross dogs, also known as “sanitary” or “mercy” dogs, worked in the field after battles ended, roaming among the casualties with saddlebags of medical supplies. If a soldier was injured but conscious, he could call a dog over and help himself to bandages or water; if he was mortally wounded, he could embrace the dog for comfort while he died.

       The jingle of a tag
       rises above groans,
       sounds like a song

       from before this war.
       Think of a girl
       you knew once,

       the cream curve of elbow
       above a glove.
       Your thousand-pound

       boots are caked in mud.
       Or it’s your head
       that’s getting heavy.

       A dog sniffs the body
       next to yours. Once,
       you walked green fields

       in Ohio. There’s water
       that won’t stay down.
       The dog lies with you.

       His eyes are brown.
       The men are going quiet.
       The smoke still rises

       from a distant trench.
       The dog seems sorry.
       You ask it not to worry.

Christina Olson‘s second book, Terminal Human Velocityis forthcoming from Stillhouse Press. Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in Arts& Letters, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Southern Review,Gulf Coast, Passages North, and Hayden’s Ferry Review. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and Willapa Bay AiR. She teaches creative writing at Georgia Southern University and lives online at The Drevlow-Oslon Show.