The Ram


If you turn off the lights, and sit on the front stoop long enough, you’ll see him. The ram. A round-horned shadow chewing on trash by the side of the road, white flank torched by passing headlights—sears a negative onto your retinas. The ram eats everything. Crushed beer cans, rusted bike chains, dandelion heads. When we were kids, we snuck up and flicked cigarette butts at his hindquarters; he ate those, too. Scraped the ashes off the asphalt with his blackish tongue. Dropped pacifiers. Ticking wristwatches. Once he ate a Barbie doll whose left arm was missing. The older kids used to scare the younger ones by saying he’d eat us, even, if we ever looked him in the eye. Do that, they smirked, and you’re a dead man walking. So we kept our eyes trained on the ground, on our frayed jean cuffs and sneakers, as we asked each other why he did it. If he was hungry, or bored, if he needed all that eating to stay alive. If we’d looked at each other sooner, maybe we’d have seen. He isn’t looking to keep alive. No: the ram eats because he missed his chance to die. He’s still looking for it, in the broken glass. The felled telephone wires. He’s still hoping to find it slicing, daggerlike, under his back molars. He’s swallowed a thousand false deaths already. He’ll swallow a thousand more. You’ll understand, if you sit here long enough. If you catch the reflection of your eye in his.

Jane Hahn