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Gale Acuff: a poem

Sic 'Em

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 AscentReed, Poet Lore, Chiron Review, Cardiff Review, PoemAdirondack Review, Florida ReviewSlantNeboArkansas Review, South Dakota ReviewRoanoke Review, and many other journals in eleven countries. He is the author of three books of poetry: Buffalo NickelThe Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives.


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