The sun goes down and it gets cold.
Our children are behaving like dogs.
The snakes are sleeping deep in their holes,
fiery red and orange has faded from the leaves
and our cups are brimming with bourbon.
A blue sky is slowly settling to dark.
I escape the house out into the field after dark.
I’ve forgotten my coat and shiver cold.
In my pocket I’ve got a flask of bourbon.
In the distance I hear your wild dogs
barking and crunching in the leaves.
I’m watching out not to step in gopher holes.
Across the road I hear a shotgun blast holes
into a road sign or beer cans lined up in the dark.
The wind back and forth flutters the leaves.
My hands and feet are numb with cold.
I’m glad to be ignored by your dumb dogs
who rely on warmth of fur instead of bourbon.
No winter coat can warm me like bourbon
and fill up the many lake-sized holes
in my heart not filled by the love of a good dog.
I walk to the big oak and stand in the dark.
My dog froze to death last year in the cold.
You buried her somewhere under these leaves.
I wish I could go but I can never leave
so I stand here sipping this warm bourbon,
my only protection from loneliness and cold.
My mind is turning into a sinkhole.
I paw my shoe at the earth brown and dark.
You love me much less than these dogs.
Our children take after you and the dogs,
rooting and scrounging in the leaves.
I wish they would fall down into a deep dark
well and get stuck; I’d drink bourbon
gazing, laughing down into the hole,
not giving a damn if they were wet and cold.
I’m out of bourbon and getting cold.
The dogs are dashing through the leaves.
Tonight I’ll take down your gun and shoot holes in the dark.
Joe Samuel "Sam" Starnes was born in Alabama, grew up in Georgia, and has lived in New Jersey and Philadelphia since 2000. NewSouth Books published Fall Line, his second novel, in November 2011 (view the online book trailer). His first novel, Calling, was published in 2005. He has had journalism appear in The New York Times, The Washington Post and various magazines, as well as essays, short stories, and poems in literary journals. A graduate of the University of Georgia and Rutgers University in Newark, he was awarded a fellowship to the 2006 Sewanee Writers' Conference. He is working on an MFA in creative nonfiction at Goucher College.