By September, poem by Wendy Carlisle

I’m ready for the casual kind­ness of fall,
ready to work the angles of chill, to

close the deal on the first hard frost and wave
farewell to the san­guinivors that bur­row in–

to the skin under my elas­tic straps
and feed on me and leave behind a histamine

that stings like sin. When they dis­ap­pear, who knows
where chig­gers go but ticks hang around only

the cold shuts them down. When Mary got a tick
in her armpit, she had it checked for Lyme’s

dis­ease. That wouldn’t occur to me.
A cou­ple good frosts and adiós ticks.

By Decem­ber, the dogs and I walk back down
the hill to the creek and never get a nip.

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The Professor and the Rodeo Queen, poem by William Ogden Haynes

Col­lege stu­dents excel at excuses and before
I met the Rat­tlesnake Queen I thought I had
heard them all. She said she would have to miss

my class for two days to make some appear­ances
in South Alabama. When I asked what kind of
appear­ances, she proudly announced that she was

crowned the Queen of the Rat­tlesnake Rodeo in
Opp, Alabama. She showed me a pho­to­graph of
her­self with a strangely rep­til­ian smile wearing

a tiara and a large sash of snake skin. Since this
was my first her­peto­log­i­cal excuse, I went to the
library to find infor­ma­tion about Opp. It turns out

that every Spring for fifty years tens of thou­sands
of peo­ple con­verge on this small town where the
Jaycees have cap­tured a hun­dred or so rattlesnakes.

The rat­tlers are milked, dis­played, entered in a race,
fried and eaten in sand­wiches or breaded like chicken
ten­ders. Sou­venirs of snake skins, rat­tles, heads with

fangs, hats, belts, wal­lets and boots are bought and sold.
There is gospel, coun­try music, fun­nel cakes and snake
han­dling. It is a ver­i­ta­ble super bowl of snakery, the

Six Flags of slith­er­ing, a nexus of neu­ro­tox­i­c­ity. I chuck­led as I
asked my dean, a South­ern gen­tle­man, if mak­ing appear­ances as the
Rat­tlesnake Rodeo Queen was an accept­able excuse for miss­ing my

class. He became very seri­ous and made it clear that we should be
hon­ored to have this fine young woman in the Col­lege of Lib­eral Arts,
and like the other ser­pents, the Snake Queen was not to be tri­fled with.

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Three Poems, by Mary Benson

The Fear of Los­ing a Crummy Wait­ress­ing Job

In a dream I’m lift­ing bus buck­ets,
arms brim­ming liq­uid sludge
while the credit machine shuts down

and the party of sev­en­teen walks out
with­out tip­ping, and I don’t wake
until the fourth alarm.

I’m still in my under­wear,
dressed in my finest hang­over
after last night’s post-shift, shooting

shit with the cooks who all have girl­friends
that secretly despise me
for hang­ing around so late, and I search

for a pair of black pants in a pile
of black shirts caked
in day old mus­tard, search

for lip­stick in yesterday’s pock­ets
when I know all cus­tomers
are unimpressible,

and the job is tedium.
I’m claw­ing through apron piles
of rolled dol­lar bills for my eyeliner

because really there is no light
in the job other than that glance you get
from behind a kitchen window

from a cook you’ve already slept with
on a drunken occa­sion, or a wife
watch­ing her hus­band while he watches you

walk away, your back pock­ets stained
with mys­te­ri­ous condiments.

There really is no other point
in rush­ing there.

The Dunkin Donuts behind my Apart­ment Building

has my black iced dark roast ready
before I fully enter the door.
The cashier with acne scars

who always looks on edge quiv­ers
his wrists and says “how’s it going”
and I say “not bad,” and it goes
nowhere from there

because that’s con­di­tion­ing: nobody
is con­di­tioned to speak at Dunkin Donuts,
nobody is expected to know names.

That’s a local coffee-shop thing where they ask
about your kids if you have them
or your job if you’ve ever men­tioned it.

I don’t have kids
and don’t par­tic­u­larly love wait­ing
tables, espe­cially today when I’m hung

–over with con­tact lenses still glued
in place and a cig­a­rette wait­ing to be lit
but the small Puerto Rican girl with the beautiful

freck­les doesn’t ask ques­tions
and today the man­ager with the gray­ing orange
hair and blue eye-shadow is yelling

at a new girl for ring­ing in two cof­fees instead of one,
and I wish it wasn’t so enter­tain­ing
to watch the heat rise
to the girl’s cheeks

while the manager’s eyes bulge
in that way that says “I’m in con­trol now”
because I’ve been there before

in so many jobs
where I hated heavy female
man­agers because they were always

the most volatile towards girls
who wore eye­liner and small jeans,

but there was a com­fort
in the top-20 playlist
on loop, and the anonymity of ticket
num­bers, and that one spot to fixate

on in the dis­tance beyond
the coiled line of con­struc­tion work­ers
and antsy chil­dren, espe­cially on mornings

like today where there’s a fight
between two teenage girls in the park­ing lot,
and a Coolata just flew from
a parked car window.

Servers walk­ing Home at Night

To the cat-calls erupt­ing
from the slowed SUV,
we deal with slobs all night

and know how to walk away
from a shat­tered pint-glass,
a baby’s per­sis­tent howl,

a man who wants some­thing
we don’t sell. We carry keys
bunched like knives,

Travel-sized hair­spray cans.
Des­per­ate weapons, but we make a liv­ing
dart­ing between trashcans.

We make a killing
on our feet. We clock in
know­ing cer­tain things will happen,

like large par­ties
who don’t tip. Five babies
in one booth. So to the bodies

sway­ing in the gas sta­tion
glow, we’ve clocked out.
To the crowd emptying

from the strip of bars,
we reek corn oil
and drug­store makeup.

Let us have this one.

Mary Benson photoMary Ben­son cur­rently lives in Somerville, MA. She earned her MFA in Cre­ative Writ­ing from Les­ley Uni­ver­sity with a focus in poetry in 2013. Her writ­ing often stems from expe­ri­ences in var­i­ous ser­vice indus­try jobs, a work­ing class upbring­ing in rural New Hamp­shire, and strange frag­ments of child­hood memory.

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Five Poems by Randi Ward


Oh mer­ci­ful
gate, break
these legs
for me
so I don’t
have to
walk home.


through red
lights on
our way
to the grave­yard—
stops for no one.


Pluck a ray
from the eye
of day; each petal
is a flower—

Old Timer

Whit­tling corn
flow­ers from water
maple twigs
in samara rain.


fence lines
as a morn­ing
glory’s spent

wardRandi Ward is a writer, trans­la­tor, lyri­cist, and pho­tog­ra­pher from West Vir­ginia. She earned her MA in Cul­tural Stud­ies from the Uni­ver­sity of the Faroe Islands and is a recip­i­ent of the American-Scandinavian Foundation's Nadia Chris­tensen Prize. Ward is a Push­cart Prize and Best of the Net nom­i­nee whose work has appeared in the Anthol­ogy of Appalachian Writ­ers, Asymp­toteBeloit Poetry Jour­nalCimar­ron Review, The Cort­land Review, Thrush Poetry Jour­nal, Ven­cil: Anthol­ogy of Con­tem­po­rary Faroese Lit­er­a­ture, World Lit­er­a­ture Today, and other pub­li­ca­tions. For more infor­ma­tion, visit: www​.randi​ward​.com/​a​b​out

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Tramp On Your Street, essay by the Legendary Jim Parks


Six Shooter Junc­tion – He had a spirit bag mas­querad­ing as one of those filmy lit­tle white plas­tic num­bers they give you at Wal-Mart to carry small purchases.

As the days of the trial wore on, he put his hand inside it and rubbed cer­tain objects – a feather from a raptor's wing, a piece of jade or agate picked up on a moun­tain slope, a claw of some wood­land crea­ture – and if you looked closely, you could see that his eyes were nei­ther open, nor closed. He was in a rap­ture, a near-trance, deep in meditation.

One after­noon, while a wit­ness droned on and the attor­neys leapt like over­heated hounds at points of pro­ce­dural and evi­den­tiary arcana pass­ing in the breeze of the still and rank dragon's breath of the court­room, I joined him there for a few moments and saw a steep gorge and a nar­row, pre­car­i­ous path that skirted the chasm in which I was def­i­nitely fol­low­ing in someone's foot­steps – and then the moment passed, and when I looked up, Billy Joe Shaver, seated at his place inside the bar, at the defense table, was star­ing me in the eye.

He was there to answer for his part in the kind of has­sle from which only an out­law trou­ba­dour, a word­smith capa­ble of writ­ing about how a cow­boy “filled up his boots with his feet,” or that when Hank sang, he sang every word, “look­ing right straight at me,” could emerge with any degree of aplomb, much less main­tain the cool and calm demeanor of a honky tonk hero.

He was indicted for assault with a deadly weapon against a man who bran­dished a switch­blade, stirred people's drinks with its keenly whet­ted blade, and insulted his wife's honor by sug­gest­ing in loud tones and a rude man­ner that on a day long before, she was the cause of a for­mer husband's sui­cide by shoot­ing him­self in the head while she was in the next room. This scene had become a rou­tine irri­ta­tion, when­ever the cou­ple appeared together in pub­lic in and around Waco or its south­ern sub­urbs. The old boy who shot him­self had a large family.

The truth emerged, lit­tle by lit­tle, that the defen­dant, who was of an age that if con­victed and sen­tenced to serve a lengthy prison term, would prob­a­bly spend his last days behind bars, was actu­ally act­ing in self defense, as his attor­ney Dick DeGuerin had told the jurors in his open­ing state­ment. There was no dis­pute that while he and his wife Wanda had been out drink­ing a beer at a neigh­bor­hood bar on open mike night, Billy Joe shot their inter­locu­tor in the mouth with a tiny .22 revolver, a der­ringer you could con­ceal in the palm of your hand.

It was the source of the dif­fi­culty, not the lit­tle revolver, but what was com­ing out of the man's mouth; that was not its only ram­i­fi­ca­tion, as it turned out.

Quite sim­ply, once the deed was done, Shaver col­lected his wife, got in his car, and split, headed for Austin. He didn't see any need to stick around, and he had his rea­sons. Jurors acquit­ted him of the charge. He later plead guilty to pos­ses­sion of a firearm in a place where alco­holic bev­er­ages are sold and con­sumed, a minor crime that is hardly of the mag­ni­tude of a first class felony.

After a con­sid­er­able length of time – way more than a year — I got one of those once-in-a-lifetime inter­views scrib­blers rarely see, the one where the per­son the scrib­bler intended to inter­view actu­ally inter­views the scrib­bler. It was as if on an ordi­nary jour­ney, bear­ing the wood, bear­ing the water, I crossed paths with the Bod­hisattva, who awaited me at an obscure turn on that pre­cip­i­tous path I had started down so many moons in the past. Howdy, there.

In the hard­ware sec­tion of a local lum­ber yard, I shopped for a work light to use in shoot­ing video, and, absorbed with the task, looked up once again to con­front Billy Joe Shaver lamp­ing me down the length of a con­sid­er­able beak, the kind that labels a man as a breed. His father was a Black Foot.

This time, he was smil­ing, where before on that day in the court, he was frankly star­ing at an intruder in his world.

On the time line of the leg­endary, there are infre­quent and obscure dead­lines, syn­co­pat­ing punc­tu­a­tions that are hard to dis­cern – abbre­vi­ated moments in time, for which one waits.

I just now remem­ber who you are,” he said, as if resum­ing a con­ver­sa­tion inter­rupted only a few moments before. “You're that old boy from down at Hous­ton, always doing things with words, aren't you?”

Yes, that's me. I reminded him we met dur­ing an obscure year at an old and long-forgotten bar down­town in the Bayou City, not far from the cour­t­house square, where song­writ­ers show­cased their wares sev­eral decades in the past. We talked about how Elvis dur­ing a per­for­mance made every­one feel like he was look­ing at them, and so did Hank Williams. Many peo­ple who caught their act have said so.

I have some­thing I want you to know about what hap­pened,” Shaver said. “That night I shot that old boy, I didn't say, 'Where do you want it?'”

He paused, let that sink in. His antag­o­nist had invited him to see him out back, and Shaver made a bee line for the door after first going to his car to leave, then chang­ing his mind. He wanted to let his eyes adjust to the dark­ened porch and pic­nic area after the neon and stage lights of the bar. It was a show down, and not one he nec­es­sar­ily pro­voked. Watch this.

In a verse of a song he inscribed, “Wacko From Waco,” he said, “I don't start fights; I fin­ish fights, and that's the way it's always been.” Had I heard it? I pro­nounced the new song smoking.

And, then, out of the blue, apro­pos noth­ing, he said it was not until his chal­lenger drew a pis­tol and aimed it that he defended him­self with his firearm. Blow me down.

And yet, that was nowhere men­tioned in the offi­cers' tes­ti­mony or any of the wit­nesses',” I replied. “Why didn't you tell them?”

They didn't ask,” Shaver replied. The state­ment hung in the air like Span­ish moss in a mighty oak, the kind ger­mi­nated prior to the coro­na­tion of Eliz­a­beth I. He looked as deadly seri­ous as any seri­ous man to whom I have ever spo­ken about any seri­ous mat­ter. I never asked him. At least, not with words. He told me.

I've kept that rock in my hand – until now – because I knew there would be a bet­ter time to play it, a time when it would count. There is a rea­son for that. It's a les­son taught by one old boy who does things with words to another old boy – one who does things with words. I am truly grate­ful. Some­body tell those folks in Austin. Remind them, too. They seem to be in a mood to call the ques­tion, the one about “wear­ing” firearms openly, so stip­u­lated in the Texas Constitution.

That's what I thought about while I napped and Billy Joe Shaver and Willie Nel­son sang and played new songs on the David Let­ter­man Show. When it comes to car­ry­ing a gun, there are things you don't tell the cour­t­house clique – unless they ask. So mote it be.

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 5.28.10 AMJim Parks is a cop shop and cour­t­house print side reporter with a 6-year his­tory of print­ing daily news on var­i­ous social media web­sites. Started in San Fran­cisco, drifted home to Texas and didn't stay at the Hous­ton "Chron­i­cle" long enough to dam­age the rep before mov­ing on to the Deep South and sunny Florida. Hav­ing returned to the Lone Star State in utter capit­u­la­tion, the blo­gos­phere feels just like home, if not sweet, then cer­tain. Truck dri­ving man, farm­hand, deck­hand, ram­bling man and scrib­bler, don't mess with this critter's food or his woman.

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Whatev, fiction by Misty Skaggs

On prom morn­ing, she was awak­ened by the croaky sound of Daddy’s decrepit old rooster, over the hill at the barn. Day­break. Rose had always liked the sound of that word. And the con­no­ta­tions she imag­ined along with it. She thought about the night sky shat­ter­ing, about sharp, black shards falling and impal­ing some unsus­pect­ing, old woman shuf­fling down the street in China or some other some­where on the oppo­site side of the world. ‘Out of sight, out of mind,’ her Nanna would say.

“Whatev,” Rose mum­bled, feel­ing par­tic­u­larly grown up in her silky, pink penoir as she stood alone in the kitchen and watched a pot of cof­fee slowly percolate.

That’s what her boyfriend would say. What­ever. Brax­ton, her boyfriend, was hot and funny and smart and what­ever. He was the cap­tain of the bas­ket­ball team in a town that was too poor and too hilly for foot­ball. He had sandy blonde hair that fell across his fore­head just right and he had a full ride schol­ar­ship to UK, where he would study equine sci­ences. Some­day, when he grew up, they would live hap­pily ever after on a horse farm in the rolling blue­grass out­side Louisville. Close to the city, where there are avenues and boule­vards filled with strangers instead of ridges and hollers pop­u­lated by the same old peo­ple who could never under­stand an excit­ing, illicit love like the one that had bloomed inside Rose for Braxton.

After think­ing it over long and hard, Rose had decided to do her own hair for the big night. And as she itched at the aqua­ma­rine, plas­tic rollers she’d slept on, she wished that her Mother could see her today, help her pile up her curls just right. Those girls at the beauty shop were jeal­ous and mean, so she stayed home. Alone. With part of her inher­i­tance, she had rented a limo and a hotel room with a hot tub. She knew that Mommy and Daddy would approve, so long as she was happy. She’d also dropped quite a chunk of her parent’s hard-earned, life sav­ings on a boob job the sum­mer before she started teach­ing eighth grade, the sum­mer after she lost seventy-five pounds. You’d think those old bid­dies down at Deb’s ‘Dos would have been proud of her, finally pay­ing a lit­tle bit of atten­tion to her looks. It had taken her thirty some odd years to blos­som. She sipped sug­ary sweet cof­fee and reminded her­self that Brax­ton said they’re just haters and that he sends her a dozen roses from a secret admirer to school every Valentine’s Day. He doesn’t know the truth, couldn’t guess that she hadn’t loved him at all at first. Her feel­ings for him came along later. Rose smiled out the win­dow at the birds singing and imag­ined her­self with a tacky car­na­tion pinned crookedly to her brand new chest and let those feel­ings and her secrets float free and fill up the kitchen around her.

Brax­ton was too sweet and young and beau­ti­ful to ever sus­pect that she had made him love her, that she had been in the back­ground watch­ing his whole life unfold. If she had her way, he would never know that their loved bloomed out of her plot­ting. She waited for his hor­mones to develop, watched his eyes widen and a book fly down to his lap when she’d lean over his desk to show off the good doctor’s good work. He would never believe that she had tested the lim­its of his devo­tion over and over, trained him like a horny, puppy dog. To Rose his moody green eyes and lithe young body didn’t really mat­ter. What had mat­tered to her, at first, was that Brax­ton came by those pierc­ing eyes as a birth right, passed down from his Mommy. All that mat­tered was that his mother loved him best. And through that cocky boy who saun­tered into her junior high school Eng­lish class, Rose could find a way to bust another woman’s heart into pieces.

She shud­dered as the ancient rooster mus­tered the energy and crowed into the sun­rise one more time, a bro­ken sound to match the bro­ken sky. She remem­bered those eyes pin­ning her down twenty years ago as she fum­bled through her teenage years. How those eyes peered into her lumpy, awk­ward body and how those sen­sual, sen­sa­tional, x-ray eyes lit up when they found the most vul­ner­a­ble, painful spot to strike. She had been help­less against the beauty and cru­elty back then, but she had vowed to make things right. Rose was quiet and patient. It took years to slowly and spite­fully ingra­ti­ate her­self into the small-town social world she used to envy. And she knew, even as she had gig­gled and gos­siped through the baby shower thrown to cel­e­brate his arrival, Rose knew that Brax­ton would be her revenge. The town would be scan­dal­ized. His mother would just die. Maybe she’d even make the national news. And besides, Brax­ton would be a real babe in his rented tux.

skaggsMisty Skaggs, 33, rarely ever leaves the holler anymore.



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Skinny Dogs and Spotted Horses, fiction by Catfish McDaris

Quick traded a Bowie knife and an Arkansas tooth­pick for a cayuse with brown clouds across its white rump. The horse looked strong and knew how to dance and fly. Quick har­nessed a rope bri­dle and threw an old Mex­i­can sad­dle blan­ket over her. The horse gal­loped so fast, he thought his skin was peel­ing back like a shed­ding snake. Quick rode back to the sta­ble for his gear and the skinny black dog that he’d been giv­ing scraps to, fol­lowed them out of town. The first night they camped under some cot­ton­wood trees, he had some grain and there was scrub grass for the horse. He stirred up a pot of cof­fee and made some veni­son stew, throw­ing the dog some deer jerky. The stars were happy and mak­ing love in the sky. Then the dog started fart­ing and the horse must’ve felt chal­lenged. The: who stepped on the bull­frog con­test, was on. Quick moved his bedroll back from the fire, he didn’t feel like get­ting all his hair singed off in case of explosion.

mcdarisCat­fish McDaris won the Thelo­nius Monk Award in 2015. He’s recently been trans­lated into Man­darin, French, Pol­ish, Swedish, Ara­bic, Ben­gali, Span­ish, Yoruba, Taga­log, and Esperanto. His 25 years of pub­lished mate­r­ial is in the Spe­cial Archives Col­lec­tion at Mar­quette Univ. in Mil­wau­kee, Wis­con­sin. He’s listed in Wikipedia. His ances­tors are from the Ani­waya Clan of the Chero­kee Nation.

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Two Poems by Nathan Graziano

Rel­a­tive to Guns 'N' Roses

In a box in the base­ment, strewn with cob­webs,
I find a photo album and the ratty blond wig

I wore one Hal­loween in col­lege when I dressed
as my alter ego, the front man of a lip­stick band

named Chix that I quit the band in a hissy fit
when my drummer’s heroin habit left him

unable to keep time, nod­ding at live shows
and absent when it came to the stu­dio tracks.

So my alter ego pur­sued a solo project, aborted
when I col­lapsed on stage then went to rehab

and came out a Sci­en­tol­o­gist, pay­ing big bucks
to have the thetans expelled from my body.

Or that was the nar­ra­tive I told the pretty girl
who did my make-up that night as I snorted

an eight-ball of cocaine and tried to pre­tend
that I was inter­est­ing and unpre­dictable, claiming

I had a high school friend who was a roadie
for Guns N’ Roses who said that Axl Rose

sucker-punched him back­stage dur­ing a black­out.
And as she applied a thick stripe of blue

blusher, trac­ing each cheek­bone, I told her
that rel­a­tive to Axl Rose, my own drug use

was strictly recre­ational. And now, as I stare
at this pic­ture of me at twenty-two, wearing

a skintight pair of thrift-store leather pants,
I can hear her tell me, “You’re try­ing too hard.”

With Salt

Roger, a friend from the bar,
can’t stand Bart, a guy in his 50s
who wears farmer’s over­alls,
dri­ves a red antique road­ster
and par­rots the pro­pa­ganda
he picks up from Fox News.

One night, soused, Roger
explained to me that salt
will dis­si­pate the head on a beer
as Bart strolled into the bar
with chicken chunks in his beard.

I don’t under­stand why
the homos think they can
marry like reg­u­lar peo­ple,”
Bart said then sucked back
a bump of house bourbon.

Bart the Fart,” Roger barked,
lick­ing his top lip and grin­ning.
Bart didn’t hear him but I laughed.
With salt, what else needs to be said?

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Barre Daze, poem by Kevin Ridgeway

Don­ald Fagen croons from fifth avenue

about hav­ing a tran­sis­tor radio and a large sum

of money to spend as we jet along Main Street

in our ragged white Cut­lass Supreme stained

with the burn of mud and snow from the winter

and spring back roads, my ex wife at the wheel

behind her black rimmed glasses, her eyebrow

raised as beau­ti­fully as John Belushi's; storefronts

are shut­tered except for Ruth's Diner, with inbred

apple pie cherry puffed heads with star­ing possum

eyes in cov­er­alls dusted by gran­ite from the nearby

quar­ries we park our car in at night to get stoned;

we're en route to the Shaw's Super­mar­ket in Montpelier

that sells our favorite hum­mus, and we scare off the

deer at night in our dri­ve­way who come to drink from

the small creek we get drunk and swim in, the neighbor

lady yelling at her kids at far too early an hour for the

hang­overs we earned from a whole case of

Long Trail Dou­ble Bag ale we split watch­ing Joseph

Camp­bell videos filmed on Sky­walker Ranch and old

episodes of Star Trek, and so we threw a half-drunk

beer bot­tle "pho­ton tor­pedo" at that loud, roly poly,

mu mu clad klin­gon that shat­tered against one of the

trees in our back­yard woods, but every­one was too out

of it from the bugs and the humid­ity to notice or much care

up here in red­neck space where no one can here you scream.

ridgewayKevin Ridge­way was born and raised in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, where he cur­rently lives and writes. He spent many years in the rural north­east, where he hopes to some­day return. His work can be found or is forth­com­ing in Chi­ron Review, Nerve Cow­boy, LUMMOX, Right Hand Point­ing and The Mas Tequila Review. His lat­est chap­books are On the Burn­ing Shore (Arroyo Seco Press) and Rid­ing Off Into That Strange Tech­ni­color Sun­set: Dallas-FT. Worth Poems (The Weekly Weird Monthly).

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Hounds, poem by Jessica Wiseman Lawrence


Hound dogs run off.
It’s a sci­en­tific fact that they can phys­i­cally close their ears
to the humans who love them and shout “Come back here!” as the dogs go chas­ing
some­thing small and quick and run a trail.

They get lost.
They get skinny.
They get instinc­tive.
They get aban­doned.
They get found.
They get hit by cars.
They get put into ani­mal shel­ters.
They get put down for mul­ti­tude and com­mon­ness, and
in the coun­try, they get to hunt­ing.

Oh, I love the smell of a hound,” my friend, Cari said, bury­ing her face into the fur on my dog, Buttercup’s neck.
At that, Buttercup’s wary tail uncov­ered her gen­i­tals and then it swept back and forth in sweet, dog-level happiness.

A mostly-white hound dog is run­ning
along­side my car on an unlined road.
Another walks into the rural ser­vice sta­tion
while I wait for my oil change.

My mechanic laughs. “All he hunts is some­one to pet him.
Plain worth­less is what he is.” He is smil­ing as he rubs his hound
dog’s smooth, brown head with his heavy, work­ing hand.

The gro­cery store com­mu­nity board is cov­ered with pic­tures
of miss­ing hound dogs, past and present.
Some of the Polaroids are decades old.
I would look at them when I was a girl,
and later go into the woods behind the house, call­ing for the hounds by name.

Some­thing in a hound dog likes to be sneaky.
Every coun­try cook-out has a hound dog, pussy­foot­ing off
with some­thing stolen, head down, eyes side­ways and
intel­li­gent. They find a barn or shed to hide behind.

But­ter­cup ran off one night and I found her
dead in the road the next morn­ing,
yards from the house, her tongue nearly bit in two
by her own teeth and the force of what hit her.
I cried on the asphalt and touched her gray-ticked coat as cars slowed down and drove around us.
I’ll never own another hound dog.
They’re too damn free.

Jessica Wiseman Lawrence, HoundsJes­sica Wise­man Lawrence had the priv­i­lege of grow­ing up on a hay farm in Vir­ginia, then stud­ied cre­ative writ­ing at Long­wood Uni­ver­sity, earn­ing a B.A. and par­tic­i­pat­ing in the University's M.F.A pro­gram. You can find her recent work upcom­ing or pub­lished in Ori­gins, Helen, Antiphon, and Third Wednes­day, along with many oth­ers. She still lives in rural cen­tral Vir­ginia, where she com­mutes an hour to her job as office man­ager each day, because she just can't live any­where else but the country

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