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Not Far from Kabul | A Poem by Donal Mahoney

Black bug no bigger
than a pepper grain
rules the bathroom floor.
He’s on patrol this morning,
possibly a scout sent out
to determine if predators lurk.

Headed toward my big toe,
he’s a slow tank from Afghanistan.
Maybe my toe is his Taliban.
I’m reading the newspaper,
on a cold seat enthroned.

Finally I use my toe to flick him
backward, heels over head.
He lands three inches away,
curls up in a ball
and lies perfectly still.

Maybe he’s playing possum
or maybe he’s dead.
Suddenly he rolls over,
staggers to his feet
and begins moving again
in a different direction,
away from my toe.
a victim of PTSD.

He heads for the antique
claw-foot tub my wife paid
a thousand for
on a garden club tour.
After a short pause,
he disappears under the tub.

At breakfast I inform my wife
about the infestation of tiny bugs,
species unknown,
that may live in or beneath
our lovely claw-foot tub.
I note they may have come
with the tub, hidden
in its cracks or perhaps

in the cuffs of the men
who lugged the tub upstairs,
groaning and sweating,
both of them sporting gray
ponytails and long beards.
I tell my wife they may be
Haight-Ashbury aliens
from Kerouac’s time.

I ask her if she thinks
I should call the antique shop
and have them take the tub
and its bugs back
and demand a full refund.
Silence is her response.

This conversation occurred
more than a week ago.
My wife has been silent since,
a device she has employed for years
when confronted by reason.
She still makes dinner
if cold gnocchi is dinner.
The tub and the bugs
remain upstairs.
Every morning I sit
with the newspaper,
my big toe forever
on silent alert.

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