Walking Other People's Dogs
They keep the parks with tails
and piss and tongues.
. . . other end of the leash is bathed
and powdered. Red-hooded.
Squinting out the sun.
They pay attention and ask only
the same in return. Beg. Whimper. Whine.
. . . busy yanking back at the yank.
Pulp steam, paper from logs—all
in a day's throb.
They love a squirrel. Would eat it—gnaw
right up a raw middle—to prove that.
. . . hate ice-ripped streets and
warrior clouds staking claims
over the sun's gore in the sky.
They woof their love. Woof too
to ask what the leash loves.
. . . Goodboy Slowdown Hurry.
Don't sniff at the babies.
Don't step on the bums.
Full of holes, my voice leaks;
it's been so loved by the melodious
worms. They work hard. That's
how I want my song to go.
Though I have to creep up to sing.
I lean my elbows
on a gravestone, my face lightened
by nightair's fleeting cool.
Friends' faces on a fractured
moon—barely seen. My words
slur into the trees: never
a clear farewell from the dead. Only
loving little traps laid
for the living. A tireless want
to make better in death
what we made in life.
Nance Van Winckel's recent poems appear in Paris Review, New Letters, Virginia Quarterly Review, Field, Kenyon Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Massachusetts Review, Gettysburg Review, and Ploughshares.
A third book of poems, After A Spell, appeared in '98 with Miami University Press, and a third collection of short stories, entitled Curtain Creek Farm, was published in July with Persea Books. She teaches in the MFA Programs at Eastern Washington Uuniversity and Vermont College.