Dog in the Ditch, Lillian Springs Road

by RICK CAMPBELL

This morning it was alive when it walked out of shadow— brown mutt, brown trees, brown grass in the swale. Walked in front of the car like a shopper decides beans would be good for dinner and turns toward the shelf. Truck in the narrow lane, sun in its windshield, beside me. I don’t swerve as much as hope for the center line. I don’t want to spatter my daughter and I on the grill of a three-quarter ton Chevy. I hold a short breath until the dog thumps my bumper and still I hope that we or the dog are blessed, lucky, that death today might be like baseball, a game of inches. In the ditch it lay still, big ugly head, pit bull and chow maybe, scarred legs, mange, no collar. I let my breath out. This dog, dead, looked homeless. No one could mourn it, no one had called its name. I left it there, winter falling on us, and drove past the alfalfa field, twenty rolls of hay, tractor rusting near the broken barn.

RICK CAMPBELL’s newest book of poems is Dixmont, from Autumn House Press. His other books are The Traveler’s Companion (Black Bay Books, 2004); and Setting The World In Order (Texas Tech 2001) which won the Walt McDonald Prize and A Day’s Work (State Street Press 2000);. He’s won a Pushcart Prize, an NEA Fellowship in Poetry, and two poetry fellowships from the Florida Arts Council. He’s published poems and essays in many journals including The Georgia Review, The Florida Review, Prairie Schooner and many others. He is the director of Anhinga Press and the Anhinga Prize for Poetry, and he teaches English at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida. He was born on the Ohio River 20 miles downriver from Pittsburgh and lives with his wife and daughter in Gadsden County, Florida.