Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California, with his wife. He has worked in electronics and mental health. He has contributed to Clerestory, Williwaw Journal, Willows Wept Review, Rat’s Ass Review, and won the 2017 Cold Mountain Review Poetry Prize.
The heavy parka, borrowed, the snow thick,
a shovel in bare hand, the Dalmatian like dominoes
on a white table, a trail of wood chips and sawdust
from the barn and Mrs. Spann sweeping,
not looking up, the dawn blue sky fabulous
and a throng of starlings full of climb and swoop
landing on sagging power lines
ignoring the hazard of shock.
Dots of blood like pebbles marked the way.
It would be a deep dig, through a foot of snow
then three feet down, ice, sod,
but the wild dog had to be buried.
I pierced, stabbed, clanged the blade
into the earth, made a pocket more than a hole.
While the Dalmatian picked frozen ice balls
from his feet, I came to warm earth.
Steam from earth’s kettle gave strange comfort–
the stiff dog would thaw in the ground,
the ground would give back to flesh
a suppleness and thickness death had taken.
I placed the dog below my feet, stepped out
of the hole, then made the soil drop, snow to cover.
I took a different route back, less direct,
nodded to Mrs. Spann as I rounded the house
to the mudroom. She did not ask
and I did not tell. The dog bleeding at the door
the night before, wild, a killer,
she had opened and closed the door
without a twinge of mercy, she said.
Her son had been sent by a captain
fresh from his training barracks
into battle and died the first day.
She cried for a year, but what did it do.
There are always more boys, more weapons,
more war, more wild dogs showing up
hungry and wounded at night at your door.