Aug 12

saint peter as a hound dog

by Rebecca Valley

There's the ramshackle drive up
The country road
The chickens in the yard.

And the children
The little girl who plays mother well
an artist who shows me her dance routine
all her colored dresses
And little boy mohawked and loud
who tells me about mustaches
Who plays the bull in our barnyard game
wraps his fingers in the hem of my
skirt fabric.

And mother sings about dinner,
father is away, a painter I'll never meet but
isn't there death everywhere, here
Death of a marriage, the chickens,
Sanchez the big guard dog.

Little boy tells me that in his barnyard the electric fence holds him in.
If he hits it, he dies
but it's okay because it's only for a little while.
There are those small deaths, too.

And the chickens might escape, we watch them in the yard.
Little girl says the she cries
sometimes, about her guard dog.
He was handsome. She shows me his face.

Deaths here are somber, but not angry.
They are tears, wounds that pink
around the edges quickly. New flesh, freshly healed.

He says if he dies it's okay,
because it's only for a little while.
I put them to sleep and that is almost a small death too.
I crack the doors
so I can hear them breathing.

At midnight I'll drive back down the country road.
These children are so gentle in the night.
Little girl tells me not to leave the house,
they get scared, alone, sometimes.

When I come back she'll be older,
I'll be older. Deaths are small, they are quiet.
Angels speak through guard dogs past
that salute me as I enter this heaven,
a solemn growl as I make the gravel driveway descent
and depart.