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Killing the Dog

ISSUE:  Winter 1978
The dog you shot has littered the yard
with jawbones and gnawed hooves
of slaughtered yearlings.

    You learn this
a summer later, mowing the terraces of weeds
north of the house. A pig’s tooth in your pocket

at first, soon the cotton cloth by your hip
is bulging. The mower is full of gas.
The blade spins and the sound, like birds

escaping, of it scattering gray bone scares you.
You lean on the mower. It whirrs and roars.
You have to turn your head.

    The north
side of the farm has no windows. No one has seen
you flinch. But you turn off the mower.

You walk to the house and sit with your back
pressed full on the wall. It’s hot and still:
as if the house held you. The mower cools.

The pieces of bone in your pocket dig
in your groin.

    The dog was a nuisance.
Smelled. Submit, submit, it growled
in the tulips. Chased horses and riders.

You flush in the heat. You empty your pocket.
The chips are discolored, more
like shattered porcelain than bone.

The sun that whitens the sea, whitens this field.
As if under snow or the sky turned over,

you are afraid. The birds fly upside down.
You count through strata.
You call on and dread a neighbor.


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