Sunday, March 10, 2013



By Charles Patrick Norman

The boy followed the meandering dog,
A little red dog with pointed ears
and playful eyes, curled tail, trotting
away from the country house, beneath
a barbed wire fence across a field,
sniffing a rabbit trail through high grass,
pink tongue lolling, leading him away from home.

The child looked back once, expecting trouble
from his mother, get back in the yard, boy,
where do you think you’re going? Do you
want to get snakebit, or fall in the creek?
But the back porch was empty, just a gray cat
sleeping in a rocking chair, silently assenting,
go ahead, a sign, no one there to tell him no.

An abandoned barn beckoned, weathered wood
falling from rusted hinges, door planks sagging,
scant shelter from wind and rain, sheet metal roof
gapped open to the sky, shadows moving across
the haw-strewn dirt floor, corn cobs scattered,
gnawed by mice, immigrants claiming empty spaces
where Grandma once milked cows long gone and forgotten.

The cool woods called the red dog, sprinkling odd tree trunks
leading downward toward Nettles’ Creek, dark water
curving, little boy following, sitting on the grassy bank,
content to dangle bare feet, splashing, scattering minnows
as the dog tiptoed across wet clay preserving
tracks of birds and animals, a raccoon, lapping, thirst slaked,
child crossing, tracking, soft clay squishing, warm between his toes.

Above, amongst the leaves a blue jay scolded,
Warning off a fox squirrel wary of the dog
below, sniffing strange scents, unconcerned with
nervous chittering, satisfying olfactory cravings
while the boy discovered the blackberry patch,
Ripe berries waiting to be picked and eaten by little boys,
Juice staining lips, leaving telltale purple streaks.

Deeper into the woods, dog and boy encountered
an old cowpath, narrow, worn deep from years
of plodding bovines set in their ways and trails,
curving around long-dead trees fallen, returned to dust,
the red dog decided, turned left, continued through
sparse underbrush, trees thinning, sunlight shining
on the fallow pasture, quail covey startled into flight.

At the barbed wire fence the dog looked back,
as if to say, hurry up, boy, we made it home,
undiscovered by your mom, I’ll lie on my back
while you scratch my belly, like we’ve been here all along.
Good plans go awry, sometimes, even good intentions
of little boys and dogs, undone by little things
Like blackberry stains and red clay dried between bare toes.


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