Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2016  Vol. 15 No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Canis Familiarus
for Carole Weinstein

Moist weeds, the wet black nose patrolling & the noise he emits—from nostril
or throat I can never tell—oddly Victorian,
a steam engine’s hiss & squeal, inching forward from Waterloo or St. Pancras.
& now and then the beagle bay
from his years in the hunt pack, before we found him wandering the roadsides
of Prince George County. Too old, dumped,

& inside his ear a tattooed number faded to seven inexplicable digits.
The loquacious receptors, thousands
upon thousands. & Milo, three times the size of Thomas, with eyes darting,
the panopticonic taking-in, like a drone
above Waziristan, uploading terrain; the two of them collaborating
only to mark—mailbox, phone pole,

the neighbors’ zinnias, now & then looking up at me, not leading them
so much as dragged. Such distance
to have ventured from the Pleistocene steppes, windswept tundra,
from our human & wolf dog
forebears, twinned packs, helixed for the hunt with their array of inventions
putting Edison & Tesla both to shame.

Tooled spear-point, atlatl, bone needle, sinewed thread for mukluk, shawl
& tunic. Together they will stalk to extinction
the mammoth, the aurochs, the cave bear, the Neanderthal.
Yet the great innovation, Shipman argues,
is the fashioning of wolf to dog, the making of “a living tool.”
Co-conspirators, corporate, the Ur-

mega merger. The dual-synced packs, weaving & worrying the straggler mammoth
until she falls to a deathbed of tundra moss.
& the systematic rendering begins. Gaze directed silent hunting, permitting
man & wolf dog to stare directly
at the prey’s last moment of consciousness, the huge imperial eye beclouded
& the pitilesshuman sclera, eloquent

& subtle in its witchery. The men look at the dogs; the dogs look back,
the outcome long foreseen.
But here in the ’burbs, Milo & Thomas sniff & meditate upon a flattened
squirrel. Above Waziristan,
the coordinates are locked. A pilot in Kansas sees a house eight
thousand miles distant

starburst to flame on a screen, cars overturned, a single figure writhing
by a blown-off steel door.
What distance have we ventured? Let us be Sky Gods; let us rain
our fire down, assisted by
our laser-guided SAMs, our canid minions. The makers, the inventors,
the fashioners of living tools.

YouTube footage of Oppenheimer, grainy b & w. He tamps his pipe against
the podium: the physicists have known Sin,
& this is a knowledge they cannot lose. The always-Manichaean bewilderment.
The dogs meet my eyes,
tugging me home, legs lifted simultaneously against a wildly empurpled
crepe myrtle. Last night I dozed off

to wolf dog burials, book lying open on my chest. Predmosti—what is now
the Czech Republic—30,000 BP.
Encircling the human cemetery, a fairy ring of dog skulls, as if to guard
their Masters through some dim, imperiled
notion of an afterlife. To sound forever their alarms. The bark & deep-throated
growl. What will survive of us?

Appetite, some shards of DNA & the undeserved perplexing loyalty
of living tools. Tenderly a man
is burying in permafrost a severed head, which formerly bore a name.
Tenderly he has sliced it below a collar he has
woven from the softest hairs of ermine or fox. He places in the jaw a small
carved mammoth bone & is stroking & stroking

the rough fur of the forehead, a dead language murmured as he closes the eyes.  

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