Paws in Your
This pocket-sized book was designed for National Poetry Month and specifically for April 30 ---Poem in Your Pocket Day, 2004.
These poems first appeared in Abraxis, The Acorn, Blue Unicorn, The Cape Rock, Chariton Review, Cranial Tempest, El Dorado Scene, Embers, Enigma, Fairfield Review, Folio, Hidden Oak, Moon Reader, Poet Lore, Poet News, Poetry Depth Quarterly, Poetry Magazine, Poetry Super Highway, Roanoke Review, Tiger's Eye, and The Tomcat. Some of these poems also appeared in the chapbooks Casualties: search-and-rescue poems, An Hour in the Cougar's Grace, Still Life with Wood Smoke, Harmonics, and Lies of the Visible.
All night she hunts, black
by the light of her two
green moons. Come dawn,
it's stubblefield silver, bleach
and gossamer of grasses drying.
She stalks the edges, shedding
sunlight. See the weed-heads
parting, a scatter of birds.
By noon she's purring
adventure against my leg,
her tail a triumph of thistledown,
come-alongs and burrs.
Toward evening, she grooms
and preens in my lap, as if
she were domestic, as if she were
mine. But it's all glossed off
by midnight to that deep
would lead a boy astray.
A jaunty one-eyed black-patched dog
could lead a boy away
leaving no foot- or paw-prints;
across the river no child could cross,
through thickets no barefoot child could travel,
up the high hills
where never a three-year-old could toddle;
would lead him out in spring light
to a point overlooking what a child never
could fathom or survive or understand,
but in dreams may climb again
at forty, when the pirate
dog is thirty years dead,
and wake up calling
that old dead dog by name.
You try the casual riff of fur:
throat and cheek, stroke along the spine.
She curls her claws and slits her eyes,
her ears clam. Tight
is the word for a cat who doesn't trust
you, loud ironic reasoner
who might decide to pull (however
gently) her twitch of tail.
Her ears will not unclamp.
Her paws outreach,
kneading air. She doesn't
purr, but waits to see
what you think you might learn
about the inscrutable
that lives inside a cat
which only a cat
One at a time the dogs down the hill
tune up, the only souls on a scabby knob
where the road gives up its plans
and just drops off into river-crossing,
a rocky ford. Listen. Those dogs
on a callused elbow of land rubbed raw
and slapped with old board fence
are singing up their souls.
Outside a junkyard of Chevies
that years ago gave up on tune-ups,
who knows what goes on behind unpainted
fences? One at a time, this time of evening,
the dogs tune up to tell us, skinny
sparrows in dog-suits, fleas on the edge
of howl. Every day we drive on past
that scabby heel with its clapboard sole,
and still we haven't learned the language
of their song.
We're walking down Main, past the Liars
Bench and the Hangman's Tree and all
the old bronzed 49er history. My dog
goes snuffling, checking out whoever walked
here shedding scurfs of skin and dandruff
for the bit of afternoon breeze to play with,
and a single line of westbound cars
to carry along like pebbles in their tire‑
treads, and the single line bound east
toward City Hall or the old Soda Works
creating opposite streams and eddies of air,
and people walking from shop to shop
swirling up scent as they shift their bags
one arm to the other. Each passerby's
presented in a million tiny packages,
scattered for a dog's nose to put back
Mine makes good work of it,
jigsaw‑puzzler in a German Shepherd suit.
He trots along as kids in front
of the historic Bell Tower make room,
and two women murmuring window‑
front to bakery do a fancy side‑step
without breaking conversation. A dog
writes his own town history