From the cemetery the brown pit bull lopes out
as if to bite our tires—or leap into our laps
ecstatic to be saved from its abandonment, but we
are already scooting down the road, the dog
shrinking smaller in the mirror—a panting, upturned stone.
We drive on the edge of the Killbuck swamp, the notorious swamp,
abandoned refrigerators mixed with sphagnum moss,
tundra swans and raccoon hunts, the muskrats
always eying their holes in the bank. We wonder
if this dog is local, a canine psychopath,
broken off his chain and roaming
like a lion to recover his pride, crazed
because of the years anchored to a concrete slab
and now wanting to chomp some havoc
for the degradations done to him. Yet
not all pit bulls are monsters, and maybe this lop-eared galoot
is just another body dumped beside the garlic mustard,
victim of yet another summary judgement on this planet
delivered by a hard hand. There you go doggie. Go eat some ducks or die.
But the language is not so harsh
when the land itself speaks. The hope still surging forth
from the ballooning throats of spring peepers
to coax out their own type of love
from all this muck. Who knows what will kill us
or let us alone, the eagle’s nest next to the herons
does not mean the rookery is doomed,
while who can stop the small fry from darting
inside the crevice of a hungry lunker’s mouth? Once I saw
a movie filmed in the forest tangle of Ecuador
some tiny hatchling open-mouthed in a nest,
its neck stretching up like a rubber band
towards the hovering bird it thought must be its mama.
A hungry baby who could not wait to be fed.
And then the larger bird gobbled it up. Who knows when
we will eat or be eaten. If the next guest I let inside my door
will be a hell-hound
or my last friend on earth. No wonder
that when the jaw opens
it is so easy to hear the groaning hinge of the world.
Daniel Bourne is the author of The Household Gods, Where No One Spoke the Language, and the forthcoming Talking Back to the Exterminator, which won the 2022 Terry L. Cox Poetry Award from Regal House Publishing. A collection of his Polish translations of Bronisław Maj, The Extinction of the Holy City, will appear in 2023 from Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press. website