Sprinting over the flat dry field
a thin hunting dog pauses

at the kitchen’s low window,
panting through the dirty screen.

Why ask to be left alone
when the world’s designed to bother,

a blister blooming on the lip?
A pair of eyes, always searching.

The starving dog I will leave behind
invades my cabin’s small rooms.

Boiling water in the kettle
increases like galloping horses.

The cliffs, firm in their resolve,
say nothing as I cook three more

eggs and slide the plate towards
her muzzle with my foot.

I lay moldy cushions on the patio.
The dog sleeps in a knot on the hill.

Maybe I’ve been wrong about everything.

In the dark, a howl.
I think it is the wind

but the wind keeps moving
and I never hear the call again.

Unafraid of morning, the regal
heron glides out while

wiry strands work loose
from the bison’s old hide.

They stick to my feet, worries
I thought long shed.

Men planned to mow today
but dawn brought heavy rain.                                                                                                 

The thistles drag.

In a rotted woodpile, the dog
hides her chunk of pale stone.

Hours away I cannot
hear my own

black dog crying in her sleep.
Without forgetting how, I am

learning to walk again.  


Clouds spread out, slow
milk in the sky.

Head aloft, a banded
rat snake swims in a tight

ribbon toward me.
Like war, the body pushes it forward.

Misplacing the name of every
flower I pick, I tear

pages from a book after
gluing them back.

Petting the unchained dog I see
she is not often in a world

where ants circle dishes in the sink.
At my feet she drops a deer’s

heart: the curved fossil falls
damp from her untended teeth.

A whole life may be wasted
perfecting the argument,

as when the hairdresser
asks after my kids

and I don’t bother to correct her.

Shy to the point of rudeness
I march over the bison

from end to end.
Female or male, I cannot tell.

For weeks nothing breaches the barrier.
Day, a bed of hot coals, waits.

The hide and I become
familiar with dust

gathering in its hair.  

Wearing soccer shorts
from practices long past,

the rancher’s wife quickly
grabs the dog’s scruff

to push her into a kennel
piled with food and shit.

I do not see
the hunter’s dog again.

All day I leave one candle lit
on the small white stove.  


At dusk I take the hide in my teeth,
leave this doubtful land

sober and swim out.

The bison climbs me
into the ship of letting go.

The hull asks about the grass.
Magnificent, says the bison.

Once, it was all-magnificent.
Quiet as a sponge in the water

I float, marking
how stars occupy the sky. 

Pin light, puncture. Rend and rupture.
Stay in place for years enough,

myth starts to breaking down. 
Fireflies blink in the cliffs.

Lift upwards as sparks.
Trail the thoughts of a bison

standing on board a ship.        

A mirror can reflect
a body so well

it assumes an impossible

Meadowlark, owl.
Maple frond, moth.

Woman of a thousand names.
Through the kitchen’s low

window I spot an indigo
bunting perched in soft

spring rain.
Soon the afternoon

sun fills these rooms
with heat denser

than flesh. Soon
clouds bring lightning and gunfire.

Storms bring water
washing out the dirt road.

Brings the woman
from the other cabin

to my door, flashlight
clenched in her damp hand.    

Three days of blind rain.
Doves forget to faithfully

mourn the oak’s dying grey.
Running from my scent,

one deer turns her face to the rocks.
I hear her hooves push

the wet stones down.
Pulling burrs from bison hair

I feel an intimacy, unsteady.
Maybe it was not comfort

enough to hear the herd
huff as it walked.

Maybe it was too much, humans

watching the unconcerned
forms of the world pass by.

Hunters do not always return
for dogs they keep so

sharp and slight.

Back coil red, the canned soup
boils until it burns.   


In the field I drop my glasses.

When I wake a dead
elm rests on the fence.

With a rusted blade I cut through.
A dread saw, red-handled

so I won’t forget. As usual
I keep my back to the neighbors,

a man who mocks his wife,
his wife who slaps her son,

her son who peers through
gaps in the fence and asks if

he can have a tire from my bike.
Unwinding the west

gate’s rusted chain, twice today
I cut my finger.

Like two old monks, my worries
begin walking every night,

wondering if nostalgia
will kill this planet.    


In the undercarriage of silence
sail many dead armadillo bugs

that never seem to live for very long.

Alone by choice I wholly
welcome the mower’s guttural

chop, the weather-beaten man who
grips my hand in greeting.

Exhaust drifts in the noon grass.
I wash my face but it does not cease

folding into itself, merging
solar and subterrain.

Decreased, the bison wander
over the ocean’s parched floor

searching for word of their lost
continent: Feather, distance.

Solitude, wreck.
I cannot call out so friends

ring in on the landline. They say
this all sounds like love, even

when I’m wrong about everything.  

Laurie Saurborn is the author of two poetry collections, Industry of Brief Distraction and Carnavoria, and a chapbook, Patriot. A 2015 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship recipient, her poems, short stories, essays, reviews and photographs have appeared or are forthcoming in such publications as The Cincinnati Review, Columbia Poetry ReviewThe American ReaderThe RumpusThe Southern Review, and Tupelo Quarterly.