Temporary Empathy

Kathleen Balma

The adult human, not yet 36,
feels a spouse’s hurt as keenly

as the spouse. In a few years
/ months / weeks

the couple’s painshare stops.
No matter what, an alarm

goes off and one bolts up
dressed in panic.

For now they wear
a common constitution:

one nature, united.
United Nations: (deadbeat

dad at Christmas, sending
the one check per year) model

of ephemeral pity. A mammal
post-heat: sympathetic.

In heat: stay inside or be taken.
Only after tipping the salt

does the child see itself
in the writhing slug. The gerbil mother

sans stress feeds her young.
In medium stress she eats them.