Guard Dog

Poem by Ricky Ray


For Sergio Ortiz

Mother me, rain, I come home
tired and thirsty
down to the snake-hiss of my bones.

You grew them a white river of wood:
no wonder my legs thudded,
learning the lift of foot.

No one to water my roots,
I rode them sloping
to the river and told them drink.

My life sounded like a dog
trying to quench
the aridity of the west:

only marginally inhabitable,
he had perpetually
dusty eyes.

That dog has died
and I’ve buried him
too many times to tell.

And every time I climb on in
till he rises
to walk me home.

Even now, when I lay quiet as earth
under the clouds,
I can hear in my heart

the lap-lap, lap-lap
of that long, insatiable tongue.
He watches over me:

at the smell of whiskey on my breath,
he lifts his head to bark the liquor
back into the grain.

RICKY RAY currently lives in Manhattan with his wife, three cats, a dog, and an overcrowded bed. His work can be found in The American Scholar (blog), Matador Review, Fugue, Lodestone, and Chorus: A Literary Mixtape. His awards include the Ron McFarland Poetry Prize and Katexic’s Cormac McCarthy Prize.