Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2011 v10n1

“Of Dogges”

You need to have Flash Player and Javascript enabled to hear the audio.

     “They alone know their owne names.”
          —Pliny the Elder

This goes on for years, a grey dog trotting
                down the gravel road every morning, your house
        the same house it has been since it became a house.

You go about your life. The tall grass nods
                at everything and nothing. The windows have no
        opinion. A hand closes over something, the light

falls a certain way on the ground. Each evening,
                the dog returns, covered in dust, paws whispering
        on the gravel as he passes your house, a scrap

of dusk roaming toward home. This is nothing
                new, but tonight something has changed: where
        is the white circle around the eye, the notched

ear, that old wound you’ve come to recognize?
                The dog seems younger than you remember,
        and for the first time you wonder

where he goes. Far off, clouds equivocate.
                Rain glances at the earth then turns away.
        Already you have begun to forget

the dog. The same dinner you cook every night,
                steam fogging your eyes as you shake
        out the same pasta. The same story

on the news. The same aching wrists, the same
                snug belt. The same long drive to and from work,
        the inert nipple of the radio dial between

your thumb and finger, the miles of road where
                you can’t pick up anything clearly. Then one day
        there is a car, like any other car, stirring

a plume of dust along the road, and there
                is the dog, dead in the road. Or not dead
        yet, but dying. You put it in your truck

and drive up the road, past the last of the houses
                that you know. You find a house you’ve never
        seen before, though it is like any other house.

You recognize it because the yard is full
                of grey dogs. They are not the same dog,
        and you wonder how many you’ve watched

walk by your window. The owner comes out, looks
                in the back of your truck, shrugs. The other
        dogs crowd around you, and you ask about

the dog with the notched ear. What was its name?
                Where did it go? The other dogs look at you.
        Some of them are missing legs. One is blind.

The light decants from horizon to road. You drive
                past your own house. You see a pumpkin patch full
        of pumpkins, their many variations:

cockeyed lobes, mottled, smooth, shapes that imply
                imperceptible slopes of earth, drops of rain wetting
        tender shoots, a month of drought, a dog

running past. You think of the room you grew up in,
                in another house, honeyed light playing on the wall.
        That dog? the man said. That dog died years ago.  end

“Of Dogges” from We Don't Know We Don't Know. Copyright © 2010 by Nick Lantz. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota,