June 2011

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Stray dog

I did not see
but I could hear
hundreds of yards away
the precise moment
that the farmer next door,
– a big man who also
kicked his cows as
they lumbered home
at evening, great beasts
with swaying udders, and
struck them with sticks
for passing too slowly
through his wooden gate –
I knew the moment
he bragged of later in
his rough cigarette voice
at the Co-op Store
when he poured
raw turpentine onto
the anus of that
small stray dog
and sent it shreiking
through the field,
howling as though its
very skin had been torn
from its flesh, the sound
so scalding I still hear it
fifty years later and
still see that crazed
creature hurling itself
down the thistled slope
toward the river.

© 2011

I have long been mystified
by men of a certain type
who seem to rise
above themselves
by shedding their skin
again and again
and standing on the pile
until at last they are tall
or if not tall
at least raised to a place
where they seem to see
eye to eye with
whatever it was they
admired or wanted or
hungered after all along.
Long before this, of course,
we have passed to strangers
and probably lost contact
and I no longer recognize them
even when they return
for certain important occasions,
a reunion, perhaps, or funeral,
and grasp my hand in
both of theirs and exclaim
in a voice like a wrench
that is a half size too large
how glad they are to see me.
It is not that they are insincere,
nor am I, as I do my best
to reciprocate, it is merely
that one of us - and I am
never sure which - has
learned a new language
or forgotten an old one.

© 2011