Hounds, poem by Jessica Wiseman Lawrence

Hounds

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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