The Country Dog Review
Spring 2009

Jesse Bishop



The currency of leaves lifts the crow,

Christ-like, wings outstretched

sins borne in black shimmer

resurrected to the power lines of omniscience.


The carrion communion—fox and possum

roadside relics of myths and magic:

                        take this in remembrance of the fox

                        the body of the thief, sly slitherer

                        with sticky paws stuck in pause

                        highway haruspicy.


                        take this in remembrance of the possum

                        that gnarl-toothed Judas of life’s

                        performance, the betrayer of death.


The black beak speaks nothing,

caws and calls for no one

save the eighteen-wheel wind

swirling down the highway

toward tomorrow, toward nothing.

Jesse Bishop teaches composition, literature, and creative writing
at Georgia Highlands College. His work has appeared in Pebble Lake Review and
O'Tempora Magazine
, among other places. He lives with his wife and daughter in
northwest Georgia.


Larry Bradley                                                                                                    



(A Cento)


Corpses are all gathered at the gate


Hollow men, dancers, heroes of the dance

Reckless, violent, and famous for it


Hiding myself in the leaves of a dark elm-tree

All that I shy away from is a scrutiny


What use is there in telling you how often

I have written, I have asked for it.

                                                                   I am not

Your grave, a hollow in a foreign sand

A man whose bones are rotting somewhere now


Whoever it was who first proposed the singing

I can say no more, for the soft bark is creeping


Unwedded to the elm to which it clings

A third of the universe, it seems, denies us


In the silent leaves, never a mention of air





(A Cento)


A gully ran there, where storm-water massed


I felt no tie with home, no love for lingering

Like a black vapor from a thunderhead


Those in the center, though, endured the cloud

Harder to bend than willow-withe and briony


The unimpeachable witness of tradition

The faint refulgent borderline of darkness


But when the passing months and wheeling seasons

Were dancing, linked, touching each other’s wrists


When the long lines met at the point of contact

Laughing as they slipped out, arm in arm


And gullied beds echoed their hurly-burly

From a jutting bank, by washing out what held it


I could let all the world swing in mid-heaven

Larry Bradley’s manuscript The Spirit of Gravity has been a finalist for the Yale Series, Walt Whitman Award, and The National Poetry Series.  His work has appeared in The New Republic, The Paris Review, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, and Southwest Review.


Greg Alan Brownderville 

A Swiss Vintner in the Land of Muscadines
      Autumn, 1882: A Letter to His Brother in the Old Country


It’s Sunday morning on St. Mary’s Mount,

the Ozark sunrise a wet watercolor

of pink and blue, a hawk’s call the harshest sound.

Last year, I crossed the swamp without a dollar

to rustle in my palm, and now I stand

on my winegrowing ground, a thousand feet

above the valley’s hardwood bottomland,


patchwork fields of whitening cotton

and sorghum-cane hewn from the forest,

the silver slither of the river.


Twining through my cloud-hooded woods

are wild whiskery vines

bearing grapes called muscadines,

musky dimes in local speech,

some as big around as a five franc piece.

Their shiny skins black and dotted,

they resemble little candied planets,

night-coated and flecked with stars.


Honeysuckle, Akebia, and other floral immigrants

strangle trees, while muscadine goes easy on its host,

tendrils clinging tightly

then lightly before they rot off altogether,

fresh growth braceleting the branch further upward.


This is Musky Dime Time,

the cool of autumn blowing in.

Ozarkers gather ’dimes by the basketful.

Careless of stains, boys hold their shirts out to bag them.

I found these grapes September a year ago.

When I walked into the woods, their musky smell came over me

like memory somehow mine though not yet made.

A young man and woman were laughing,

eating from a loaded vine.

Playing coy, she ran away, dashing under high trees,

her scarlet hair aflicker, muscadines squelching

under her bare white feet.

He gave chase and caught her in a tumbling kiss,

their lips likely tingling,

sensitive from the acid of the grapes.


Pure sin to watch, I know.

I must be shriven soon.

But could you have looked away

when he kissed her purple-blotched feet?


Glad boy bandits came yowling past me,

chucking ’dimes at one another.

One boy, a grape whirring toward his head,

made a mad leap for a muscadine rope and swung across a ravine.

They called a truce and ate themselves weary,

tongue-threshing, spitting seeds and skins.


My curious hand tendriling

the silver-smooth wood of muscadine,

I didn’t think of cobbler, syrup, sauce, jelly, jam,

hull pie, candied skins, juice, not even wine.

All asizzle with boyhood, wanting nothing but a taste,

I shuffled through the leaves and plucked a pretty one,

dropped it sun-warm in my mouth and bit the skin.

It burst, flesh shooting on my tongue

with a gush of woodsy flavor, no more tart than sweet,

the loose ball sliding down my throat.

I sucked and tongued the inner skin for a wet secret—

the sweetest juice and tenderest fleshy lining.


After a punishing summer, only here and there

have I found a shriveled mummy dime.

Let me bet on a fight pitting these grapes

against disease, pests, and drought—

my money’s on the muscadines.


The bare feet of the Grape Dance may not mash them evenly,

so thick and tough the hulls. We will see.

Did you catch that we? Tell me something, Brother.


Are you at home at home? Unfolding Europe

on my desk tonight, I tried to dream away

the distance, but looking at that wrinkled map,

varicose with rivers, I could say

“Old World.” Come. I invite you with a quill

a hawk wafted my way. If you’re vacillating,

hold this paper to your face and smell.

I’m using muscadine juice for my ink.

Greg Alan Brownderville, a native of Pumpkin Bend, Arkansas, teaches Creative Writing at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. He completed his MFA at the University of Mississippi in May 2008. Brownderville’s poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in such magazines and journals as the Oxford American, Measure, and Prairie Schooner. He is the author of
one book, Deep Down in the Delta: Folktales and Poems, and, in 2007, was given Porter Prize, making him the youngest person ever to receive the award.



Alicia Casey


Near Drowning at Sardis Lake


My baby’s not a baby

anymore.  Her recently

acquired fear of bathwater


is forgotten the moment

her boat shoes hit the shore. 

She adds the word hat to her


vastly expanding vocabulary,

and shucks her flowered cap

into the waves. Then arms


reach across the murky surface—

Mama, roll in, kick out, and Dada

to catch her on the other side.


We’ve brought the dog, half-wolf,

half-shepherd, who, head above

water, negotiates the lake on his leash.


Lila says, doggie, doggie, woof

woof, woof.  She wants to ride him

like a dolphin.  She clings to his mane.


And I know it’s a bad idea, but I let her

try to mount him like her plastic zebra

tucked against our kitchen wall. A second


splits, and I feel the nylon threads of the leash

coil my ankles like a copperhead. This is how

quickly the brain works: I am underwater.


Do not breathe in. I am holding Lila who has

no flotation device, and I’d rather breathe in

than let her die. I read an article in Parenting


last week that said, An infant may drown in the time

it takes to answer the phone.  How long does it take

to answer the phone?  And, more importantly, is she


face up or face down, while tangled in arms that are

losing oxygen?  And then, her weight is lifted by her father,

close by with the leash in his hand.  I emerge with one lost


contact lens, sputtering lake water from my mouth.  Later, calmed,

I tell him my own survival instinct was on override.  He said this

is how it should be—he last saw Lila, balanced on bodiless palms.

Alicia Casey holds an MA in English from Austin Peay State University and currently is pursuing an MFA in Poetry at the University of Mississippi as a John and Renee Grisham fellow.  She serves as the managing editor for the Yalobusha Review, and her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Rattle, Zone 3, and Hawk and Handsaw.  


Heather Cousins


The Field


It is flat and clear and full of small black                   

birds.  It is stubbled like a beard.  The corn               

stalks are sharp and hard, their brown leaves                         

drag in the earth.  Everything in the field       

is tired.  The birds are tired.  The open                      

furrows are tired.  The emptiness                               


is a limp, long-legged emptiness.

It is December.  The kernels are black

with cold.  The crows and starlings open

their shiny throats and the shriveled corn

goes down like teeth.  The field

is full of molars—what the combine leaves,


a hasty dentist.  Cobs.  Mouths.  Leaves

like lips peeled open.  Its puckered emptiness

sits on the ear; the silence of the field

is a flat silence.  It enters the black

tunnels with dead pricking, sharp like the corn

stalks.  I could touch something to it, open


a hole, and shatter.  I could open

my body like a jacket.  My ghost leaves

in tiny, hard pieces: white corn, dent corn,

flint corn.  I am shaken to bits.  I am emptiness,

with my bits flown out.  The small black

birds are dark hungry.  This is the field


in front of which I stood.  This is the field

that swallowed me the winter of the open

casket.  It would not snow.  The ground was black

and hard.  A box.  Your coffin had leaves

of black walnut.  All I wanted was for the emptiness

to be covered.  To put a lid on it.  The corn


was cut down.  You were cut down like the corn.

It was golden once.  You stood in a field

and the blade swept you into emptiness.

I lost my faith.  The lid of your coffin was open

like an eye.  Your face was waxed.  The leaves

of the missal were turned to a prayer.  A black


book.  Come emptiness of snow on corn.

Cover black.  Cover bird.  Cover field.

Leave nothing open, so nothing leaves.

Heather Cousins lives in Monroe, Georgia with her husband and two dogs.  Her first book, Something in the Potato Room, is forthcoming from Kore Press.  Her dogs aren't sure about her poetry, but think that she is very good at giving behind-the-ear rubs and dropping Milkbones from the sky.



Erica Dawson




            Other heights in other lives, God willing.

                        Robert Browning


Today, the sun and underside

Of your eyelid looks like the state fair’s fun-


House mirror.  Ultraviolet cooks

The lid bright red so what was dull


And black last night and snug in bed

Plays a violent strike of flashes: kite-


Tail veins, blood blue, a rusted-trike-

Brick by the nose; deep Red.  Now you


Keep staring and you’ll just get froze,

Missy, your chin up high to land


The heat, to seer, so your lid’s skin

May show you iris, pupil, mirror.


Mind changed, look up and eye

Big Brother, close, then op— a cup


(Ooh!  Ah!) of ant-hilled ice is rose.

You’re wine.  The Whack-a-Mole’s precise


Escapes, the Whipperwhirl, the yak,

Hogs, Walk-the-Plank, white clown, Mom’s slip


And madras dress? All red.  Tell Frank

You’ve got magic eyes.  And from the mess


Of buttons offered as a prize

For shooting bottles off a trough,


He hands you two:  LOVE WHAT YOU GOT;



The Lady with Umbilical Cord

And Baby Man stand by the plum-


Pie booth.  Now open wide.  You can,

Your eyes still shut.  Reveal the scope


Of Llama’s chin and Thinman’s gut,

Three mares horned unicorns and twin,


Buxom and tall “Ms. Fortunes” (Soon,

They say).  Let Goatboy laugh like a walrus.


Now try and see him pink.  Now coat

Him blue.  The mutability—


Body as shell, a twig as newt.

Whoa, you can’t stand.  You hear a yell,


She may be small but see a brand

Of little girl who saw it all


(Ovid’s so proud), who died, turned pearl,

Has oyster lips to sell the crowd


Goatboy! who claps his jaws.  The tips

Of his boy-beard blow when he naps.


Remember, e then i in weird,

How sunspots split.  Go long and spike


Them down.  Play dumb.  Eschew your wit.

Then guess your weight.  Let cloudlets come


One size fits all as cloudlets bait

Their hooks as cloudlets march as pall-


Bearers while toy rifles bust loud

As crackerjack.  The passive, coy


Crowd moves too active, back to back,

Too many winners on a stack


Of winning pumpkins.  So, squash; spin

Yourself up at the top.  Fist-pump.


You’ve earn it.  Doff your wide-brimmed hat.

But mind your eyes sealed like a cut


And walk their lines, tic-tac-toe thin,

And, backwards, count from ten, nine, tens, nines…

Erica Dawson’s first collection of poems, Big-Eyed Afraid, won the 2006 Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize and was named Best Debut by Contemporary Poetry Review.  Her poems have appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Blackbird, Barrow Street, Best American Poetry 2008, and other journals and anthologies.  She lives in Ohio where she is completing a PhD in English Literature at University of Cincinnati as the Elliston Fellow in Poetry.



Blas Falconer


The Foundling Wheel[1]



They swept the river and caught the dead

in nets. Then a wheel with a box


let someone leave a child

without anyone seeing. I wish that you


could see the church on the shore.

Boats sway beneath the great wall.


At low tide they lay in mud

beside anchors and tangled rope.


Along the road, cows graze

in green pastures, sheep on the hillside


as you might imagine. I imagine you

at home, painting—tarps taped


to the floor. I stood in line

behind a mother at the store


who rolled the stroller back and forth

looking at—the rain? In the dark,


my mind drifts, a current on the bank,

the sound of water splashing from the roof.


The blue curtain glows at dawn.

I hear the gulls and don’t sleep well.


[1] The original foundling wheel, a rotating platform lodged in the wall of a church or convent, allowed women to anonymously leave their children.

Blas Falconer is an assistant professor at Austin Peay State University, where he serves as the poetry editor of Zone 3 Magazine/Zone 3 Press. He is the author of a chapbook, The Perfect Hour (Pleasure Boat Studio: A Literary Press), and a book-length collection of poems, A Question of Gravity and Light (University of Arizona Press). He lives in Nashville.


Ann Fisher-Wirth


Climbing Eden


He stood in the rain near me, naked,


in my dream. I did not desire him

but was not unhappy to see him. Long flanks

and bony shoulders, he was young again.


I thought, perhaps after all he does not

                                                            hate me.


Our daughter says when he came

to meet the baby, he helped her plant her garden.

I trust he took care with the pink rose I gave her

to celebrate the birth,

                        called  Climbing Eden.


                                    Trust when he

held our new, first grandchild, he didn’t deplore

my mouth, the beestung lip, on her.


Long ago, when we walked the fire roads

in Palmer Canyon, the world lay all before us—


                                                Time can make

nothing of us now. One day we’ll be dead,

he first, or I. Our long catastrophe will be over.

Ann Fisher-Wirth’s third book of poems,Carta Marina, has just been published by Wings Press.  Her poem sequence Slide Shows placed second in the 2008 Finishing Line Chapbook competition and will appear in winter 2009.  She teaches at the University of Mississippi.



Dan Groves



      ...some untrodden region
—John Keats


Ahead, headland;

the ultimate bluff—projecting out from all I have left to stand

for me.  Behind

its sheer face, broad tracts, their resources extracted, mind

turned metaphor;

the chiseled, picked-over, abandoned quarry; the seems; the or;

the loaded, vain

topos of topography—old prospects, points made plain,

what I said I meant

in legends, plotting, low comic relief.  Now, glacial sediment,

the raw material

world, beyond those former footloose expeditions (the boring drill;

the dark earth-bed;

the untold treasure, briefly, brought to light; the fateful drop, the fled-

from peril).  Here,

no further ground for assaying; no geminal facets glittering clear,

no features which await

my cutting devices; the platitude is wiped clean off the slate.

Yet, while I breathe,

all is self-flattery, long-winded drafts, and underneath

is overblown,

well-worn, through layers of hollowed figures, from headland to headstone

(no more than a toss

from the depths, the surf that breaks the surface down to a fine gloss,

to nothing less

than its still adamant base elements, the parts of the process

of breaking down

erosion itself: Eros and I, as always, leading on.

Daniel Groves is the author of The Lost Boys,
forthcoming in the VQR Poetry Series from the University of Georgia Press.
His poems have appeared in Paris Review, Yale Review, Poetry, and elsewhere. 



Chris Hayes


In the Beginning


That first night, you knew better

than to believe the sleep I feigned

on your couch was real. The party


ended, our friends drove home,

and you locked your doors against

the chilled wind October sent


blowing through the neighborhood

to which your Army lawyer husband

would soon fly back, and find you


absent. What were you thinking

when you took the blame, signed

the papers, and hauled your boxed


life across town to my small rental?

It took me a year to stop thinking

all you wanted was another escape


from that last of life plans gone awry.

When I came home early from work

to find you plucking bright crocuses


along the road, and arranging them

in a vase, I still wasn’t convinced.

What it took was that accidental


division of cells in the womb

you thought would never spark.

Maybe it wasn’t the pregnancy,


but your desire to hand over

your body, to give our daughter

my small and unremarkable name.

Chris Hayes has an MFA from the University of Mississippi. Hayes has received an Honorable Mention in the AWP Intro. Journal Awards, and recently won Smartish Pace's 2009 Erskine J. Poetry Prize. His work has also recently appeared in Zone 3, Two Review, and Red Clay Review.


David Kirby

Not Really


            If men knew what others said of them, there wouldn’t be four friends in the world.



            A student is telling me that he called his mom the other night         

                        and thought he’d hung up before a young woman came

to his dorm room so he could teach her to smoke pot,


            and later that evening, his mom calls back to say she’d listened

                        to him for forty-five minutes as he told his new friend to “take

it deeply into your lungs” and “hold it as long as you can.”


            And I tell him he was lucky that he didn’t know, unlike the time

                        we threw that party, and on the sheet of paper with the list

of prospective guests, we’ve also sketched out the buffet—


            cheeses at this end, meats at the other, veggies and dips

                        in the middle—and how we’d left the sheet on the table,

and now the guests are arriving, and I am across the room talking


            to someone about her kids or her haircut or some other staple

                        of party conversation when suddenly I notice the sheet of paper

with guests’ names on it along with question marks in some cases


            and explicit comments in others: “Talks only about self,”

                        for example, and “B. says yes, D. says over my dead body.”

It’s between the pecan log and the spiral-cut ham,


            and there’s a piece of salmon on it, right next to the name

                        of a couple who are already in the room and are described

as “she’s okay—can’t stand him.” There’s a tension, in other


            words, of the kind Billy Collins describes when he says that

                        poems have miserable content (heartbreak, death) and happy

form (well-turned lines and stanzas), that the triumph


            of the form redeems the misery of the content, which is why

                        poetry works and TV doesn’t, because TV has happy form

and happy content, i.e., no tension. And just as I’m about


            to dart over and stuff the sheet of paper in my pocket, someone

                        I haven’t seen in weeks kisses me on the cheek and says,

“Where should I put my coat?” and I say, “I’ll take it”


            and start toward the bedroom, though not without looking

                        over my shoulder and hoping Barbara will see the sheet

before someone else does, and a few minutes later,


            I hiss at her, “Get the paper off the table!” and she says,

                        “What paper?” and I say, “The paper! The stupid paper—

get it!”just as a couple embraces us and says we’re sorry