The scald

Once, in the fields we knew
I found a scrub wood gaping with ragweed
beside a gulch that smiled
with tin teeth.

A speckled dog lay there in the dirt
his breath racing between staggered jaws
mange-ridden, a hunter’s pet
caught in the crosshairs between loving
and being loved.

He nosed my hand as I drew back
brittle grass broke beneath his tail
beating, anxious. Buckshot in his belly,
a trickling reminder—
he knew something of forgiveness.

His flanks heaved, spotted with shit
and the whine of flies. But when he looked up
smiling, bloody-nosed:
he was just like me.

We sat together, among fennel wasted in red dust.
His tongue lolled, burnt with hope,
under the eye of the trees.