by Markham Johnson


The neighborhood dogs are barking again:

a chain letter cha-cha-cha that begins blocks away

and rolls through the backyards up and down the street.

Another canine Ponzi scheme I think and try to ignore

the woofs and yips and howls that call down squirrels

from the branches like the snow-white effluvium

of cottonwood trees that litter the yards in early May.

But maybe they know something. Those doggy noses
can smell zip-locked hot dogs loosed

from Mr. Wagoner’s fridge, and those doggy ears
hear moonlight scuffling in the leaves, and perhaps

those doggy dreams that thrash the doggy beds

conjure the bones of antelope and mule deer

and buffalo that once kicked up great fists of prairie

and chewed through thousands of blue stem meadows,

now suburban backyards.  Maybe in the absolute silence

of a late Wednesday, church night in Oklahoma,

when the Taylors and Butlers are speaking in tongues

of something that once abided on this earth,

the dead return to wake Frodo and Ajax and Lucky from their sleep,

and one by one the beacons in their doggy brains strobe red

because something is stirring deep beneath their doggy feet

and they are compelled to share this gladness,

this second coming with every other dumb beast in the world.


Originally published in This Land: Winter 2016