Monday, July 28, 2008

Alabama Dog

This poem appears in the 2007 anthology Whatever Remembers Us: An Anthology of Alabama Poetry.

Alabama Dog

Gemma used to be wild,
a river dog culled from a culvert under
highway 49. We sleep in a
farmhouse built on a foundation
of adzed timbers, a house of old
books. When daylight rouses me
from night sweats and I
mutter, "It can’t be morning,"
when Gemma howls with a passing train
and the mail truck honks
as it backs into a cold slot –
then I remember that there are things we have forgotten,
the smell of blood,
white fragment of bone,
forest dew, the silence of the moon,
and hunger.

She only hunts in the early morning,
a black cloud drifting over grass,
her kitchen filled with gleaming knives.
She carries her kill to the dining room
where the ceiling fan whirs, my dining
room too, replete with roses and broccoli,
tomatoes and tall glasses of water,
a brocade curtain, a lithograph
by Lebadang, eprouve artiste, a room
where a vegetarian eats side by side
with a river dog, a room with heavy oak chairs
and a blood-stained carpet.

I walk through the pre-dawn
toward the bathroom, barefoot, chilled,
heavy with sleep and rebirth,
dragging a satchel of stony phrases
snagged from a dream of forgetting, forgetting
a crucial word. I see the shape first, dim
in the non-light, a branch towed inside for gnawing,
then small greasy mounds, another twig,
a slim gray toothpick. I pull the light cord
and find an ear, a meaty spine. I sniff,
wait for tears or a churned stomach. Instead
I am engulfed by a river, a river
that swallows gristle and fur,

muscle, heart, bone
and hunger.

Gemma sleeps bloated on the back porch.
I clear her remnants, scrub her woolen plate.
I crouch beside her, stroke her neck.
If we wandered the forest, it would be she
feeding me.

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