Big, black dog

by Douglas K. Currier Issue: Fall 2015
This big, black dog runs through my sleep.  Some nights
I can hear the thump of his brain pan as he dives under the car
next to the one that first hit him, killing himself on the front
axle of rush hour.  “Thump” is the only word I have,
the only sound that much pain can make.  That sound
haunts me; that big, black dog sound runs through my sleep.

Some nights, it’s that young doctor and his girlfriend
tumbling over the hood of the car in the next lane.  My eyes
still say – fancy acrobatics, fool kids playing around in traffic
– but my ear, the one I hear best with – says death.

The night the abandoned puppy wailed in the vacant lot
in front of the house, disguised as garbage, I told my wife
that any moment I’d go out and find it – kill it or bring it home
– the plaintive lostness, the sound of its waiting, had to stop.  It cries
some nights, half a world’s distance between me and my sleep.

My wife said, “How is this concern with animal suffering,
when here, close by, there are children in worse conditions?”  
Children.  We cannot separate them from their misery
with a blow to the head – a garden shovel, a stray rock.

And now, at the beginning of a century, there is little I haven’t seen
and most of it in color – death in all of its incarnations:  the severed
heads, the naked mass graves, the piles of bones, the bodies dragged
through streets by anger, by error, the mutilated bodies of children, women,
men not at war with anyone, and the gravity of the pieces that survive.

I fear what I have heard, fear that which is left for me to hear,
that which will people my dreams, those sounds neither black nor red,
sounds of life squandered, life petered-out, waste.  My eyes have
the protective glasses of uselessness of this time, this place, but my ear
– the one I hear best with – has not hardened, brings me the fragility
of life as it passes.  Fear resides in my hearing, my good ear, where I live.


Douglas K. Currier is a former college professor who has published in the past in Laurel Review, Dominion Review, The Café Review, Black River Review, Fish Stories, Mockingbird, Writer-To-Writer, Mangrove, Lake Region Review, and Ibis Review to name a few.  His work appears in the anthology, Onion River: Six Vermont Poets (Daniel Lusk, ed. Winooski, VT.  Book Rack, 1997). He lives in Burlington, Vermont.