Words and photos by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

Sometimes I try to make eye contact with my dog
and fail. They say it’s because he’s a rescue, and
that dogs consider eye contact aggressive. I stare

at my dog’s small brown face and call him sweetie
and honey and baby boy. His eyebrows flex and quiver.
His pupils volley from one side to the other, but never

look at me. When I reach to touch him he squeezes
his eyes shut. Advice is mixed on whether I should
pet him at this point. I usually do. Baby. Angel.

I can never tell if he likes it. When he first arrived,
he hid behind my curtains. He refused water. He panted
and shook. His body was a chorus of pink bald patches.

Stress can do that sometimes, the rescue said, telling me
how he was handed over to them without even a name.
Months later, we are sitting together on the couch

when I notice his eyelashes, how they’ve started to grow
back, how when he sleeps, they jump and twitch, flutter
like the wings of a small bird preparing to fly. ◥

from The Year of No Mistakes

Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is the author of six books of poetry (Dear Future Boyfriend, Hot Teen Slut, Working Class Represent, Oh Terrible Youth, Everything is Everything, and The Year of No Mistakes) as well as the nonfiction book, Words In Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam, which Billy Collins wrote “leaves no doubt that the slam poetry scene has achieved legitimacy and taken its rightful place on the map of contemporary literature.” Cristin’s most recent awards include the ArtsEdge Writer-In-Residency at the University of Pennsylvania (2010-2011), a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry (2011) and the Amy Clampitt Residency (2013). Her second nonfiction book, Dr. Mutter’s Marvels, is now available from Gotham Books (Penguin)!