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SHJ Issue 6
Fall 2012

[Two Poems]

by Sarai Austin

Dog Town

A confident orange dog 
trots down the road.
Dogs run free here.  
Too free for my taste.
Old dogs rouse from a stupor
to bark at me when I walk past.
Packs of pals guard whole roads, 
so that I must change my direction.
It’s a dog’s town, except at night
when the coyotes howl.

Trying to join in,
but not remembering how,
the dogs sound weak then,
pathetic in their domesticity.
What was traded for an easy meal
cannot be regained.

Then the howling stops.
And something is gone,
noticed not in the silence,
but in the relief the flesh feels.

The dogs settle down,
thinking dog thoughts
of what is lost,
too dumb to remember
what they forgot,
how to be wild,
what it was to be free.


A Week After

A week after Evander dies 
I sweep the last of his fur 
from the plank floors. 
Dark, difficult floors that 
are a challenge to keep clean, 
with or without a cat. 

Death keeps company 
with our worst memories, 
the way he crawled behind 
the toilet, the sink. 
Sticking his head beneath 
the baker’s rack and finally, 
resting in front of the screen door, 
as though waiting to leave. 

Until we fell asleep, 
giving him peace, 
you on the kitchen floor a few feet 
from where he lay, 
me in the next room on the couch. 

An hour later, 1:20 a.m., 
and then we wrapped him 
in his favorite green towel 
that matched his eyes. 

In the morning we buried him 
in the wild corner of the yard, 
outside the window that’s over my desk, 
where the bird bath sits, 
the only thing we brought 
from the house that burned, 
except Evander.

—Previously published in San Diego Reader (10 August 2011); reprinted here by author’s permission

SHJ Issue 6
Fall 2012

Sarai Austin

was born on a farm along the banks of the Mississippi, and has spent her adult life in Southern California. She has taught personal narrative at UCSD and performance poetry at Idyllwild Arts Academy, and has been the recipient of California Arts Council grants. For a number of years she coordinated a poetry reading series, from which she published an anthology of participating poets. Austin’s recent collection, In, Then Out, was published by Liddie Dabbs Press.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury