The poison had returned him to us
from the upper fields where week-long
in the heavy odor of something wronged
and hunted he’d lost himself.
Now in one spasm on the kitchen floor
his forelegs gave way, the body
trying to shiver the death out of itself
contracting there, too finely stiff
for any good to come its way or ours.
We saw how his eyes had become wholly his,
and neither the moon shone against them
nor did the wind tend to his fur
like any good master. It was night
and he was dead, stripped even of
the dignity one can come to by dying.
Outside, the animals I imagined
under leaf-cover and limb retreated
toward the one earth that would soak them up,
and believing that nothing but morning
and a hard burial would set things right,
we turned away to climb the stairs:
I remembered then how my uncle,
once lost in the desert, turned also
but to watch two wild dogs one after another,
homing in on the blood they could scent
and spill, come after him like a dream,
and as the first leapt up to his throat
he caught it with a kick, soccer-style,
and sent both yelping back into the madness
of the desert, grateful perhaps
for the knowledge of what one leg
could muscle out and hold at bay,
my uncle grateful too
for what had been spared to go on.
Such magic failed us here: what lay corrupted
was by corruption felled, fallen, and held.
As we slept closer for the feel of it, above him,
we dreamt through our entanglements
of the neighbor’s fields poisoned with bad meat,
the scent of dark blooms drifting in
toward our porches, backdoors, even
into our kitchens, until all houses
seemed fit for the dead to enter,
and the house of the dog lay quietest
among all else in its dreaming,
and by daylight, no death
seemed too obvious, and none was forgotten,
or likened to any other.