Tuesday May 21

Dunlap Poetry James Dunlap is an Arkansas poet that studied English at University of Arkansas and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Poems have appeared or are forthcoming in storySouth, Nashville Review, The Journal and Copper Nickel.

aubade with gut-shot dog

everything’s blurry and muted
like the world’s wrapped in gauze
daddy’s greasy hands shoving the rifle in my chest
i barely hear him say shoot that god damn dog
when you see him and don’t let him bite you

it’s dark out and my dog came back to the yard
padding lightning towards the chicken house
it feels like someone else’s arm holding the rifle
tracking the dark figure creeping
through the crackling grasses
lightning bugs tapping on their filaments
i’ve tried to unmake the memory       
tried shattering it to a thousand pieces
but it keeps happening and will never stop happening

i’ve made headstones for every dog i’ve lost
paint stirrer crosses dipped in black paint     
i’ve stuck them behind a tree out back
lightning-stuck it keeps growing but crooked           
i miss them all of them—the truck-killed
caked into the blue-chip of Crow’s Loop
or flung into the ditch to bloat all day long
those that died being too old laying on the porch                    

pearl strands of foam issue from my dog’s mouth
sweat on every inch of my exposed body

i need a clean shot to make it quick
i bite down and squeeze the trigger
but he starts before i finish
and he’s gut-shot and howling

i finish it but i only save him a few minutes of pain
the blade slides through the cotton of his throat
i don’t need the spotlight for this

the moon is bright and the night strung together
with strings of bullfrog song and my dog gurgling
the thousands of oblivious stars
the spiderweb of ache in my shoulder after the shot
smell of gunpower stitched in my nose and the ringing  

on failed suicides

is it the rope or the shadow that breaks the windpipe in the moon’s mute lightning
death doesn’t clot like drying ink in the brain’s swollen gums it flashes small and sudden
like a shard of fire caught in a dog’s eye long and greedy is the strange music of the blade            
how it licks open the wrist how it shakes the red lights from the head like strips of rotted silk
i am a man but i want to be a hemorrhage of light i’ve slid in the blade of my deerskinner
and like a dull plow it won’t scour the wrist hangs dripping like a hog ankle ripening
in its own loss see the myriad forms of blood lashed across clapboard see the shapes fleck
from the abyss some like black stars some like a herd of drowned bats some like night-colored
mares every time a friend gauzes the opened wrist each time a hawser-thick finger snakes my
throat and draws from me a double handful of pills like a constellation of teeth each time i wake
standing on a windowsill the noose perfect but no beam strong enough to hold dead weight my
lips are stained with the same prayer please god don’t let my mother find me like this