Published on Academy of American Poets (


I’ve been cradling the heavy cat in the half-dark
For an hour 
She likes how I make her feel 
And I like her— 
I was mean to the dog 
And now he’s dead 
Well, not mean 
Cold in moments 
He could have used the warmth 
I could tell and still did nothing about it
And so here I am 
Which I am accustomed to 
And anyhow I am happy 
To pay for such horrors, such ill manners
Of my character 
Even if I do blame you for it— 
How can I empathize with anything 
When I can’t remember empathy 
And you are the only mountain 
For miles all around 
I’ve had to learn to be kind again 
To uncoil my tendrils into the light 
Sometimes I pretend you are not a person
But a stone (how could I love
people again, if I didn’t?) 
And I warn them: Little Ones, 
Don’t learn from stones
They are too still
They are too sharp
Sometimes in the moonlight 
They whisper terrible things


Copyright © 2021 by E. C. Belli. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 17, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This began as a reflection on the uglier parts that we bring to an intimate bond. I developed an interest in these slow, foul, crystalizing stances that are resentment, bile, blame, withholding and so on, and wanted to sit with them for a while in a poem, and see where it would go.”
E. C. Belli


E. C. Belli

E.C. Belli is the author of Objects of Hunger (SIU Press, 2019).  A bilingual poet, her latest book, A Sleep That Is Not Our Sleep (Anhinga Press, 2022), won the 2020 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry. 

Date Published: 2021-08-17

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