A mother begs the court to keep her son incarcerated for fear street gangs will eat him alive.
I don’t expect punishment or prizes
for my work with violent boys in court-ordered care,
though I’ve been accused of experimenting
on them like they’re dogs, which reminds me
of Dr. Pavlov and the pack of thirty-five mutts
he taught to respond to bells and music,
his notebooks filled with love for each one,
especially little Druzok, Russian for best friend.
But Pavlov’s dogs and his century-old Nobel
hold no interest for the mother crying on my phone—
a judge says her son meets criteria for discharge,
and she begs me to keep him until he’s eighteen,
two more years sheltered from street gangs
she fears will eat him alive. And I share her fear
because I know what happened to Pavlov’s dogs—
World War II, Leningrad starved by a three-year
Nazi siege, a million dead, food supplies bombed
into dust, a police unit formed to fight cannibalism,
Druzok, Bailak, Murashka, and Rex ripped
from their cages, warm hearts and bloody flesh
devoured, paws gnawed down to bone.