The Shaggy Dog

by Cameron Lawrence Issue: Spring 2018
Slept at the foot of my father’s bed, spent
months scratching at the fence, until one day
he escaped into acres of cacti and brush,
the hood of night pulled over the mountains
and tract homes, aglow in the sparse
witness of starlight. Dad drove searching,
calling to the vanishing landscape, the arroyo’s
banks overflowing with a vacancy, a thirst
that drank every utterance as I lay awake
listening for coyotes, the haunting
nocturne awaiting our beloved kin. What,
in the end, should a child know of life’s
estrangements, how what we hold dear
so easily disappears? I watched for him,
day after day, wondering when, if ever,
I’d see him, and then it happened
on the highway: Mom spotted a pack
of strays running north along the barricade.
Clouds of tire dust rose into blue as Dad
stopped on the shoulder, and Mom
called through the window her unmistakable
whistle and Here, boy! For a moment,
he paused while the others continued,
and I can still feel him trembling there,
divided—the car door opened wide, Mom
inching forward, his lip quiver and whine,
her upturned palm a supplicant to the void.
She moved closer, then closer, and when
finally near enough to whisper his name,
he lunged for her, baring fangs, and was gone.
We watched him run, devoured
by the dream of wildness, beyond any power
to break him. To claim the animal for ourselves.

Cameron Lawrence

Cameron Alexander Lawrence's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in West Branch, The Florida Review, Image, TYPO, Forklift Ohio, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, The Shallow Ends, Whiskey Island, Ruminate, and elsewhere. He lives in Decatur, GA, with his wife and four children.