Fox and Dust

by Matthew Porto

Lubbock, TX

As I walked home the other night, a red fox
stared me down when I crossed from concrete
into a park’s dry Bermuda grass, then
disappeared with three curled leaps further
into the dark. I don’t belong here any more
than cedar elm, or Afghan pine, or the bur oaks
with their branches wrenched into jagged lines by wind.
I think of beloved Bible figures, their sandy skin—
Joseph, who saw in the seclusion of dreams
what provincials hate most: a destiny set apart
from the collective, then love for a foreign land
and its people. The Arabic word haboob
frightens Texans more than the storm itself.
Cotton is also Arabic, cultivated here for generations;
crimson, too—the right epithet for our sunsets
that color the edges of clouds. . .

The day after the fox stole into darkness,
leaving me alone and turned around
in a suburban desert, I lay in my back house,
unable to describe the filthy shade rolling up the sky
of the Llano Estacado. What light did Joseph see,
drawn up from the pit where he had been thrown,
speckled with blood and spit. The sunlight
stumbles, broken in oak branches; debris curls
and leaps like something living—
haboob phantom, Afghan ghost, dust-born Hebrew.
What ground will be left to stand on come morning?

MATTHEW PORTO holds an MFA in poetry from Boston University. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in SalamanderThe CressetCrosswinds, and elsewhere. He is currently pursuing a PhD in creative writing at Texas Tech University.