My Neighbor’s Heart Attack

Poetry by William Doreski

A muskrat swims through water, only its head and tail visible above the surface.

My neighbor’s heart attack is a furry thing that looks like a muskrat. When it failed to kill him, it crawled away to look for another victim, someone more impressionable. That’s its secret: pose as a cute, medium-sized rodent, approach as if for a cuddle, and then attack. There are other species of heart attack, of course. Some resemble large insects, like Gregor Samsa, while others look birdlike, although usually with clipped wings. My neighbor’s heart attack creeps up my driveway, hoping that I’ll fail to recognize it. But I know a heart attack approaching when I see one. The eyes give it away. You can read the sky in those eyes, a distance posed by the death wish we all secrete when startled. I let the creature get halfway up the driveway. I coo and cluck to reassure it. Then before it can pounce, I smash it with a snow shovel. It squeaks with rage and fear and scurries off toward the marsh. I can’t kill it. It’s not an animal but a fist, a powerfully clenched fist that can knock anyone down and out, if they’re foolish enough to let it get close. With the shovel, I drive the creature straight into the marsh where it struggles through the muck. Lacking boots, I can’t follow. When it sees me give up the chase it hoots from a safe distance, mocking me.

William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Dogs Don’t Care (2022). His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals. His website:

Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

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