My dog has the mange and I mean bad, half
his hair gone, leaving purple skin beneath
tan fur. I'm in leg-casts up to my hips
this summer – an operation to set
my bowed legs straight. They sawed my bones
beneath my knees and then remade them. Now
they mend, or I hope they do. In two months,
maybe longer, they'll cut off the plaster
and let me out. I'll see two shriveled legs
and stitches that need plucking out, one at
a time. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Then I learn to walk
again. This afternoon they let him in,
Pogo, named for Walt Kelly's 'possum. He
stinks because my sister gives him a bath
in some kind of mange shampoo. If it works
he'll be a new man. One day my father
comes into my room. He's got the paper.
He sits in my wheelchair and clears his throat.
Son, I found your dog on the highway. He
got run over, last night, I guess. I think
he never knew what hit him. Never
knew what hit him – is that good or bad? Oh,
I say. Well, that's one way to cure the mange.
He doesn't laugh. I look out the window.
Yesterday Pogo was on me, licking
me while I tried to hold him still so I
could hug him, but he's got too much puppy
in him to stay still long. I buried him,
Father says. Well, that goes without saying.
I'm sorry, Son. I feel run-over, too
– I still can't stand without my walker but
I know I'll get better and, in good time,
I'll have legs that work as well as before
they began to bow and both sides of me
leaned on each other, collapsing but
not completely, propped up on their collapse.
Can an animal love, I ask Father.
He puts down the paper and looks at me.
Well, I don't rightly know, he says. But when
I look disappointed he quickly adds,
But I don't see why not. The question is,
Can he love a boy like a boy loves him?
I'm not sure but I know they can be pals.
He raises the paper again. I can't
see through the words but I don't want to. Pale
paper. Marks on pale paper, many sheets.
News. Sports. Society. Classifieds. Ads.
Wish I could sic the mange on Death, I say.
Down comes the paper. Come again, he says.
I wish I could make Death lose all His fur
and die in patches. That would teach Him. I
start to cry but I'm too big to. Sorry,
I say. No, no, Father says. Don't worry.
Get it out of your system. I'm losing
tears but they'll grow back again. Unless joy
runs me down and I won't know what hit me.
Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Reed, Poet Lore, Chiron Review, Cardiff Review, Poem, Adirondack Review, Florida Review, Slant, Nebo, Arkansas Review, South Dakota Review, Roanoke Review, and many other journals in eleven countries. He is the author of three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel, The Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives.