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 is a poet and essayist living on Alligator Point, Florida. He is the author of six poetry collections, including Gunshot, Peacock, Dog (Madville Publishing, 2019). His poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals, including The Georgia ReviewFourth RiverKestrel, and New Madrid. He teaches in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College.