Something to Believe In

Carl Phillips

My two hunting dogs have names, but I rarely use them. As
I go, they go: I lead; they follow, the blue-eyed one first, then
the one whose coloring—her coat, not her eyes—I sometimes
call never-again-o-never-this-way-henceforth. Hope, ambition:
these are not their names, though the way they run might suggest
otherwise. Like steam off night-soaked wooden fencing when
the sun first hits it, they rise each morning at my command. Late
in the Iliad, Priam the king of Troy predicts his own murder—
correctly, except it won’t be by spear, as he imagines, but by
sword thrust. He can see his corpse, sees the dogs he’s fed and
trained so patiently pulling the corpse apart. After that, he says,
When they’re full, they’ll lie in the doorway, they’ll lap my blood.
I say: Why shouldn’t they? Everywhere, the same people who
mistake obedience for loyalty think somehow loyalty weighs more
than hunger, when it doesn’t. At night, when it’s time for bed,
we sleep together, the three of us: muscled animal, muscled animal,
muscled animal. The dogs settle to either side of me as if each
were the slightly folded wing of a beast from fable, part power, part
recognition. We breathe in a loose kind of unison. Our breathing
ripples the way oblivion does—routinely, across history’s face.

Last updated September 23, 2022