2013: Cleopatra Mathis-Revenant (poem)

Revenant
Cleopatra Mathis

Slipped her leash, the dog’s hurling down the beach,
away from water’s boring lap and into the grasslands’
knee-high waves where creatures prowl or hide.
It’s nearing spring: everything’s a predator.
I’m thinking lost: not now, off the path
and chasing whatever’s there into the ever-collapsing
scrub oak, split trunks, passages, holes
underground, because everything out here needs cover.

I go this way and that, screaming her foolish
human name—not a prayer she’s dumb enough
to miss any cracked opening,
the telling signs of scat just outside. Foxes, coyotes,
they’ll take anything into those dens.
The dog is gone, rapt with smell,
all her fifteen pounds frantic to dig, ears closed
to me—a lesser life filed under ever-faithful
same-old kibble, when there’s this.

Reason has nowhere to take me—
feisty as she is, her gyrating tail calls up a cartoon drawing,
not ancient breeding. So I startle, caught
by a muffled barking somewhere below.
Buried, I realize, in the ground.
The dog is barking underground, resolved, insistent—
I stumble toward that fractured trail of sound
to the mouth of some fissure, and she comes
out of the earth, caked with dirt, panting,
quizzical at my panic, and in her dark eyes
everything is readable:
what now, what now?

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