Of Dogges

by Nick Lantz

Nick Lantz

“They alone know their owne names.”
—Pliny the Elder

This goes on for years, a grey dog trotting
down the gravel road every morning, your house
the same house it has been since it became a house.

You go about your life. The tall grass nods
at everything and nothing. The windows have no
opinion. A hand closes over something, the light

falls a certain way on the ground. Each evening,
the dog returns, covered in dust, paws whispering
on the gravel as he passes your house, a scrap

of dusk roaming toward home. This is nothing
new, but tonight something has changed: where
is the white circle around the eye, the notched

ear, that old wound you’ve come to recognize?
The dog seems younger than you remember,
and for the first time you wonder

where he goes. Far off, clouds equivocate.
Rain glances at the earth then turns away.
Already you have begun to forget

the dog. The same dinner you cook every night,
steam fogging your eyes as you shake
out the same pasta. The same story

on the news. The same aching wrists, the same
snug belt. The same long drive to and from work,
the inert nipple of the radio dial between

your thumb and finger, the miles of road where
you can’t pick up anything clearly. Then one day
there is a car, like any other car, stirring

a plume of dust along the road, and there
is the dog, dead in the road. Or not dead
yet, but dying. You put it in your truck

and drive up the road, past the last of the houses
that you know. You find a house you’ve never
seen before, though it is like any other house.

You recognize it because the yard is full
of grey dogs. They are not the same dog,
and you wonder how many you’ve watched

walk by your window. The owner comes out, looks
in the back of your truck, shrugs. The other
dogs crowd around you, and you ask about

the dog with the notched ear. What was its name?
Where did it go? The other dogs look at you.
Some of them are missing legs. One is blind.

The light decants from horizon to road. You drive
past your own house. You see a pumpkin patch full
of pumpkins, their many variations:

cockeyed lobes, mottled, smooth, shapes that imply
imperceptible slopes of earth, drops of rain wetting
tender shoots, a month of drought, a dog

running past. You think of the room you grew up in,
in another house, honeyed light playing on the wall.
That dog? the man said. That dog died years ago.

Last updated November 09, 2022