Issue 44.2 Winter/Spring 2024


Cattle Dog

Cattle dog on a cold morning folds
as if he is the letter and envelope, legs

bent under belly, nose tucked between
haunch and hip. Purebred pocketknife, blades

of his teeth sheathed so small now, slight
as his bobtail, his white star, each speck

of a speckled blue coat a syllable of dingo,
of jackal, of stray, of lost, of found. Of mine.

Folds like a switchblade, snaps like one too. Folds like
cards that could have won, but bluff now, lie low.

He’s cold, so at the army surplus store, I search for wool
blankets in overflowing aisles. The owner hounds without helping.

“You can’t get this anymore, or this, or this.” She touches
everything and here this all is, for the getting.

I select a Swiss Army blanket, cheap, dogpaw brown except
a tiny white cross on a red stripe, like the knife. “You can’t

get that one anymore,” she says, again. How is it a sentence
of which she has plenty? How she points to a $60 blanket.

“This one you really can’t get anymore.” How I can’t
tell her the blanket is for a dog and nothing military seems rare.

For $30 my cattle dog will fold his correspondence
into old army wool all winter, thanking me with a growl

when I come too close to this item all his
own, his the only heart in the house to beat against it.

I’ve tested his DNA while he tests me, with him
I don’t know where to stand and when to fold until

one day I do and the results are 100% purebred.
But here is the white powder in the envelope of dog—a cross

of genetic markers for blindness, a certainty,
a retinal atrophy foretold. My own genetic health, not so distant.

Macular degeneration. The cells in his eyes will shrink
and mine will fray. We’ll see one another as softer until we can’t and

we’ll fall apart, our letters folded too often, our blankets bare
and we the proprietors of surplus whispering in so many syllables

you can’t get this anymore.


Photo by Allison Christine:…