Chinky, a Dog

 

Chinky was our Pekingese, a Chinese breed
with silky hair, a smashed-in face
and gorgeous dark eyes.
My mother named him Chinky.
This was not politically correct, but understand
it was the fifties in a neighborhood
of upper middle—Jewish—class whites.

We never walked him, just let him out the door
into the street down Chevy Chase and Kent
where kind Mrs. Leebow threw him scraps of meat.
I’d often have to call him home, and standing
high on Avon Road, where ivy-covered Tudors
sank into the rolling landscape, yell Chinky!
Cheeeeeeeeeee-nnnnnnnnn-keeeeeeeeeeee!

Oh I was not myself. Not a chubby ten year old
in itchy skirt and cotton blouse.
I was a megaphone. I was ALL VOICE.
The soul of the earth. Chinky! Here boy!
He is bounding up the hill, his long ears flapping
back like rabbit ears flattened in the wind.
A brown fur bullet darting up the road.

No one told me I was bad or wrong.
The Azaleas kept blooming and the snow kept
falling as the years unfolded one by one.
Then Chinky died--he must have, I assumed--
though I never knew exactly how or when.
He didn’t make it home one day
no matter how long I called and cried.

And then the neighborhood changed.
The Nazareths moved in on Radnor Road,
the Mohammedovs on Gaberdeen, and after that
a steady stream of Wu, Yoon, Rodriguez and Zhu.
My voice grew dull, lost in the babble, lost within my loss.
Alone I’d whisper Chinky, the name now twisted into shame
like the kinks of my ponytail gripped by thick blue bands.