This Is Not a Dream
for Brian Gwaltney, 1978-2000
The ordinary muffle of the morning:
Light rain and empty streets,
The canine figure in the distance
Coming toward me, shaking free
From all the funneling parallels
Of curbs and sidewalks, trees and fences,
Unhurried in its individuating.
The thing could almost be a wolf;
It looks and moves like one but steps
Too high, as if it has been trained,
Slapping at the dark, wet pavement
With its pads and clicking nails.
A jackal, maybe, or a dog
Out of the Bible, one that tears
At the mocked, unburied dead.
It carries something heavy in its jaws.
A rumble of what must be thunder
Tries half-heartedly to throw
The blanket of the morning off
And fails. The rain falls soundlessly.
The dog keeps on, and so do I,
Until there’s nothing more between us
Than a good, hard lunge,
And I recognize the hand--
The blood-wrapped, shattered human hand--
That’s caught between the creature’s teeth.
Turning as if commanded to,
No more than a length away from me,
The dog veers left and down an alley
I’ve never noticed and is gone.