A Riddle of Hamsters

Lindsey Holland

            I didn’t mean to buy     It was her fur
            that colour   apricot   eyes black as rivets
alert and flickerful   feet like bonsai leaves
haunches ripe with muscle    throbbing
            with spirit    unbridled    sparky in a way
            that gave me    what?    affirmation?    Perhaps
it’s always this way    with pets    we find
what we lack in ourselves    I named her Abbey
            from an undeveloped lust    for history
            gothic    ghosts    Now    it seems prescient
I called her a ruin    I loved the evenings
cleaning her bedding    a smell of wet sawdust
            sprung from the cage as she rattled around
            in an exercise ball    and later    how she’d slip
along my forearm    off into my lap
then make a break for it    sprint for the door

The week with a friend’s hamster    Bernhard
            with balls like acorns    I was foolish
            to lower him into her cage    shocked
that they mated    but couldn’t look away
from her hunched-up shape    his hands
            yes    tiny hands    clutching her ribs
            the two of them rippling    sleek
with health    and this    then    was life
unfolding this easily    I kept the secret
            like a locket    until one night
            past bedtime    she shrieked    fists pelting
the cage    then toppling    such yowls
and whimpers    her tail erect    and under it
            something like the tip of my thumb
            magenta    glistening    On the phone
the vet said    Pull the pup out    despite the grinding
of muscle    little lungs    and she bit me then
            the only time    to the bone
            and I couldn’t pull    couldn’t    it was slippery
I had no purchase on her    Then the quiet
as she seemed to sleep    her body ebbing
             then not ebbing    I didn’t see her leave
             I carry many things this weightily.