by Benjamin Busch

The dog drives its head low,
tracing the spoor of snakes and bare feet,
sucking at the surface to breathe in the evidence:

The juniper of gin sprinkled in arcs
across tomato sauce splashed from the back porch
with the ash of cord wood burned down to smoke.
Dried oceans of salt tossed to melt the ice
on cold plates of slate in December,
washed into the thatch of severed grass
one hundred years deep in spring,
soaked with milk gone bad and blood dripped home,
rinsed with well water from the hot rubber hose
in summer.
Wine poured from evenings cut short,
maple leaves minced every fall since the glacier’s retreat,
worms eating veins into the clay
and ants carrying grains of sand out of the pores after storms,
never moving their mounds.
Fish gutted, their scales scattered, gray cat hair,
mice and birds bled for sport,
flies flickering on their eyes.

The dog looks half mad with stories
of murdered forests and dead riverbeds
left as splinters, pebbles, and earth,
stops, stunned, and looks at us as if we must be terrified too,
but we can’t smell any of it anymore, remarking only
that the yard is wet with the scent of soil and rain,
nothing in it but what we imagine as fertility.

Even the dirt has forgotten how it became this,
just like us pretending we aren’t
what it is.

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