Shit Animals by D.R. Wagner

The house we lived in the Fall was the one the guests used in the Winter. Papa said we had to come here to get the place ready. After all we were to be the landlords for that season and by clearing the brambles away from the windows and trapping the gophers that had made such a mess of the lawns we could make good use of the lull before the people from America came with their horrible children who always ran around in the snow stark naked, screaming about how backwards we all seemed. We knew they were not quality people and Sammy and my sister Dorothy who we called Dot would blush whenever they were in their presence. Still, they radiated a sense of some great failure waiting to be uncorked.

Mama always said we must pray the rosary for these people. Yes, they brought us money for the season but they were snide. And those adults with their sack-like bodies, wearing purple and red-violet slippers to all the meals—always teetering on the edge of the stairs, about to come crashing down. They would uncork five or six bottles of wine before the meal had begun and ask for more before the meal was half over.

Sammy told me he wished the dogs would eat them during the night. Then we would not be the one who were made to feel failure every time we turned around.
‘Shit animals’ is what he called them.

‘Eat, drink, sleep and shit is all they do,” he said.

“Don’t use those expressions,” Mother would chasten us.

It wasn’t that she disagreed. She just wanted us to show more quality than those people could ever do.


Once I heard her tell Papa that they were ‘shit animals’. I was up in the night to go to the bathroom and I could hear Mama and Papa talking in their room.

“Sammy called them ‘shit animals’ and that is what they are Lars. I smell them even before they come into the room. I can’t stand to do this every year.”

I knew we had no choice. I vowed never to let them touch me, which they always seemed to want to do.

I told Sammy and Dot never to allow them to touch them either.

There was no argument. I could hear Sammy saying ‘shit animals’ quietly, over and over again as we went into the kitchen for the broom. It was his turn to sweep the stairs.


“See the problem is we can’t always know we are in a labyrinth even when we crack up against it’s walls, or see the dogs they keep, so we won’t notice where we are.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” she asks, pointing her index finger directly at his head, making a gesture as if she were shooting him. “You’ve cracked,” she adds as if it were a kind of announcement.

“Shhh,” he says.

“Just because you can sit there at that desk all day and make money doesn’t mean that I’m wrong. If I left the room, you wouldn’t know where I went. It’s a labyrinth. Give me five minutes and you couldn’t find me for a week. That’s how it works. One minute you’re here and the next minute you are just electricity existing only as an email or a digital blip on a surveillance camera. Somebody looking into your bedroom, somebody with an idea they can frame you, blackmail you in some way. Know what I mean?”

“No,” he answers.

“You’re floating off again, dreaming, Bill, dreaming. This is a real world. You just don’t want to live in it, do you? You just make up shit and hope it makes sense.”

“Well, you don’t make much sense,” he says pulling a rather large bird from his jacket pocket and stepping to the window to release it into the gray afternoon.

“If you could be that bird, you could see the labyrinth. You could see where they have placed the mirrors to confuse you. Forget it.”
She crosses to the window to watch the bird flying away.

“Now you can’t see me. Try to follow me.”

“You wish…” she mumbles to herself and sits down to resume typing.“You wish.”

D.R. Wagner has exhibited visual poetry in venues ranging from the musee des Arts Decoratifs at the Louvre, Paris to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. He has produced over 30 books of his poetry, and most recent collections include 97 Poems (Cold River Press), The Generation of Forms (NightBallet Press), and The Night Market (Crisis Chronicles Press).

Share This