By Alison Hurwitz


Her door latch sticks and catches, swollen shut with many seasons’ rain. 
When she opens, it’s abrupt and all at once, wafting mildew like regret.

The first grader curled there, reading, looks up, surprised to see her older self climb in,
sit down on a musty seat. Esmerelda is a relic, her pop-up-top grown so

green with moss, she’s ground-covered into stasis. Time rewinds, retracts to wrap her back
to 1980 when your family bought her, new, on sabbatical in Europe, before you cut

your childhood into bite-sized pieces, easier to swallow, small enough to say “It’s just a car.”
When she was young, her rainbow curtains opened to a changing view of many somewheres,

all possible. Long drives, she’d lull you with her motion, engine thrumming, slow-shifting you
to sleep. Your father kept on driving her, long beyond what others whispered prudent; seniors,

both idling at the light. Esmerelda, once multilingual, now mutters only rust and molder. 
Look: there’s the shelf of travel books from 1982, the swing-out table that can no longer swing.

There’s the seat, once far too high for you to reach the floor, the propane stove on which your mother
dared to cook you escargot on that cold campsite night in France, where snail trails silvered trunks.

Your father called and told you that a nice young couple lost their home. Pause. Since the seat 
still folds into a bed, the stove still works, he’ll sell our Esmerelda for a dollar.  Tomorrow 

she’ll be overhauled and scoured, made into someone else’s safety. You sit beside your younger self,
her feet swinging, yours planted on the floor, watch the dusk keep darkening. Now you can’t see 

anything beyond the place you are. Night holds you like the kind of song you sing when driving 
somewhere just to drive, mind unwinding, moving only as the moon moves, down the road.

State Fair Mini-Donkey

Almost no-one is there 
to watch the miniature donkey
entering the ring. Too late
in the day perhaps, or maybe
just not as liger hybrid cool
as the miniature mule.

But we are sitting in the stands.
We see the donkey seem to say, pulling back,
I never asked for this. Here she is, diminutive
gladiator, goaded by a woman in a sequined
Stetson hat, to jump and demonstrate agility, 
docility, compliance. She strains against her rope.

Minutes pass. Finally, frustrated, the handler 
whips her flank and shouts behind her, Git!!
Startled into motion, she vaults her forelegs
over, then stops and blinks, bisected by the bar,
as if to say What the hell am I doing? Refuses
to go anywhere. This donkey: literally half-assed. Brays.

Something in me makes me want to stand and cheer 
her stubbornness. Damn straight, I cry inside my skull. 
Why jump because the bling-smirched boss has slapped 
your ass? Even if you clear it, they’ll keep on raising the bar. 
Everyone is laughing now, while the donkey plants 
her hooves and poops. She won’t be moved.

They have to take the bar away before she deigns
to amble off, in search of hay. Punk-ass donkey.
My new avatar.

I Walk the Dog, Post-Hurricane

We’d brought him out four times into the wild of rain and wind 
when he would whine and paw and pace before the door.  
We knew he had to go, but every time, the tumult was 
too much, and we could almost feel his sphincter shrinking 
back, retreating. Same, dog. Same.

We thought probably he’d leave his presence on the floor
for us this morning, when finally the roaring histrionics 
passed, but nothing’s there. As soon as it is light, I venture 
out with him, into the gray mist, the rough equivalent of 
a shuddered sigh, after losing it has wrung the throat from inside out.

Branches have been tossed, upheaved, lopped jaggedly
from trees along the path, so we go slowly, pausing
to clear space enough for walking. We pick through
aftermath like it’s an elegy, zigzagging around trunks
too big for us to shift. Finally, he finds a place below 

the long leaf pine and squats, looks up at me, his haunches 
trembling. I think of how, in stormy weather, I would creep
into my parents’ room, always to my father’s side, the lighter
sleeper. How he’d wake with just a touch, and lift me in the dark, 
hold me, rocking, until the clutch of too much lessened. 

At 48, I wait and breathe, my own weight dropping from 
my shoulders, from behind my eyes. I lift my gaze to everything 
still growing, everything not shorn or sheared away. I am here,
picking up the pieces. Both dog and I are finally 
letting go.

Alison’s recent publications include Global Poemic, Words and Whispers Journal, Tiferet Journal, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, A Book of Matches and Anti-Heroin Chic.  Her work is forthcoming from Rust and Moth, The Shore, Amethyst Review and SWWIM Every Day.  Alison lives in North Carolina with her husband, sons and rescue dog. She is the host of a free monthly poetry reading, Well-Versed Words. See more at

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