The Country Dog Review
Winter 2013




Amanda Bales

Lake Tenkiller
         31st Birthday

Fish mistake raindrops,
ripples a bait pole memory,
bob and sink of fat orange cork.

My child hands knew no thrill
like a crappie hole and a father

willing to rip gill, kill a day
cleaning just-legal string lines,
gut bucket at his feet, Jimmy Webb
tune between his teeth.

if you see me gettin’ smaller

I’d leave him to it, play
Time Machine or Olden Days,
games contrived to take me
anywhere but Oklahoma.

When sun dipped, I’d return,
kick and crunch scale piles
till skin glittered and Mom
dammed me from the house.

He pressed his thumb
to garden hose stream
helped me come home.

I’m leavin’, don’t be grievin’
I’ve got a right to disappear

When his heart snagged
I stayed gone, wrong decision
in a string my arms quiver to lift
as I wait for his sun-spotted hands
to make me clean again.


Amanda Bales received her MFA from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Her work has previously appeared in The Nashville Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Southern Humanities Review, and elsewhere. She fishes, teaches, and mangles her accordion in Columbia, Missouri.

***

Tasha Cotter

Blanket of Blue 

I stepped in when they were getting older, dreaming of sturgeon and the way certain bones can be assembled on a string and worn like a rock with a passage beating one inch above each other’s heart. They had sent for ivory. They had sent for a little memory of flight, a buoy to save themselves and so I located the one for the other. I drove them to a riverbank in the north, put them on a little patch of grass and gave them a view of the city. Of course it was cold, but I couldn’t let them know how it was going to end. I gave her a slim volume of words. I gave him a coat and the ability to name the park that lay just out of view. I put three questions on her lips, told her to ask one in the direction of a fishing boat, one to a signpost, and one of him. Someone said a tear here would be especially nice and so I let a little knot come and go, chilled them with wind. I gave them shelter, and they watched a hard rain fall around them. Minutes later he ran straight into the rain, returning with a blanket, and they sat cradled like that for hours. I watched each thought edge closer to the conclusion as this silent voice breathed stanzas into them, showing them how to save themselves from the flood if only they would listen.

Tasha Cotter is the author of That Bird Your Heart (Finishing Line
Press, 2013), and Some Churches (Gold Wake Press, 2014). Her work has
appeared in journals such as Contrary Magazine and Booth. Her fiction has been nominated for a storySouth Million Writers Award and her poetry was recently named a finalist for the Philip Booth Poetry Prize.


***

Lizi Gilad

My lover, when I eat tomatoes

I think of you. Did you know
tomatoes belong to the night-
shade family? Their rumored poison

and bloody interiors were feared.
Cousin of the mandrake,
thought to riot lust, their musk
once called to the wolves
who nipped and gnawed
with dripping cuspids,
who stalked the fruit, hungry
for juice. Love apples, whore apples--
I like plucking them off
the vine. I hold globes in my hand
and eat them whole. Uncivilized.
(What pleasure is ever tidy?)
Entire civilizations dribble down
my chin: tomatl, pomodoro, badura.
The scent of sun-tippled anise
spreads my nostrils and clings
to my lips. With a whetted blade
I carve seedboats from their swell
and slurp summer’s tangy splurge.
Their pubescent vines are furred
and downed like your forearms,
your heavy calves.
I plunge my tongue in red clabber
the way my face burrows
for darkness in your neck and taint.



*

Temblor

Your lumber, your thunder,
your walk is my tremor.

You’re my Popocatepetl,
my periphery, my large.

I want your quiet
shoulders to drape me.

I want the avalanche of your body.
My mountain, I want to know when

our eyes will meet; tumble and seethe
in iris fields. Let me tell you:

our skins will touch slowly,
will singe from the beginning

with the grief of completion.
Let me tell you: you will cinder

and blister me, fissure me.
You, my beautiful

ruin. You, my falling falling ash.

Lizi Gilad is an MFA candidate at UC Riverside Low Residency program. Her poems are published or forthcoming in Amethyst Arsenic, burntdistrict, Foundling Review, Melusine, Thrush, and others.

***

 

Michael Gray

Flood Waters

Snakes appear
             in dishwashers

weaving
                         in wet bowls

            in dish soap
                        gleaming.

            Listen! –
                        cars (both
                        elevated and sub-
                        terranean)

open
           and
           fill.

In city streets
            citrus fruits rise
like jellyfish.


Michael Gray is an MFA candidate at California State University-Fresno and an editorial intern for The Normal School. He won an 2012 AWP Intro Journals Award and first place in the Poetry category of Down to Earth NW's Earth Day 2011 Writing Contest. Poems appear on Down to Earth NW.com, in Rock & Sling, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, the Aurorean, and Puerto del Sol.


***

Justin Hamm

The Third Day of Winter

Snow blows across the alfalfa bales,
across the hood of the forgotten Nova.
It spirals through her broken windows. 
It piles over her pedals, and it spreads
across her split, foam-showing seats.
                   Ditch, fencepost, scattering
of idiot beef cows, loitering, chewing—
black holes die-cut into fabric of field.
Here and there a few inky treeshapes
rising up like dark tentacles, clawing
for a hold on the same scrolling sky.
                          And snow again,
in slanting drifts against the barndoor,
tall to the tires of the rust-eaten tractor.

On the other side of this country lane
the cemetery sprawls like a mute city.
From this walking dream it seems I’ve
arrived above the half-buried headstones.
Here I stop to rest, hand held to my heart.
                    Soon enough, I’ll need to
find some way to descend the steep hill
down to where my closest kin are kept.
I have these words of reconciliation,
and I’d like to speak them to my mother.
I’ve been carrying them a long time now,
                    and this time I mean to do it.  
Nevermind the great white moat between us;
nevermind that the grave is so far down.
 

Originally from the flatlands of central Illinois, Justin Hamm now lives near Twain territory in Missouri. He is the author of the chapbooks Illinois, My Apologies (RockSaw Press, 2011) and The Everyday Parade/Elegy for Sounds Forgotten (Crisis Chronicles Press, forthcoming). His work has appeared, or will soon appear, in Nimrod, The New York Quarterly, Cream City Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Sugar House Review, Big Muddy, and a host of other publications. Justin earned his MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 2005. His most recent project was a free course for creative writers living in and around the small town of Mexico, Missouri.

***

Lori Lamothe

Lake with Mountains

Light strikes against silence
and the hour rings out its whole note. 

Stillness ripples to the edges.
The world is on the other side of escape.

Our canoe makes a path
like breath on a window pane.

We can see straight down.
The rocks are composed in glacial time.

At night, they make a counterpoint with the stars
but it's impossible to catch the tune.

Each measure a century long.
A refrain only the dead know.

Lori Lamothe's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Barn Owl Review, Blackbird, Fogged Clarity, Goblin Fruit, Medulla Review, Psychic Meatloaf, Revolution House, Seattle Review, and other magazines. She teaches part-time at Quinsigamond Community College and has worked as a mentor for The Afghan Women's Writing Project (awwproject.org). She lives in New England with her daughter and their red Siberian husky born on Halloween.

***


Leah Mooney


Instructions Pertaining to Intermediate Acts of Self Denial

First you must, when compelled to speak, divorce your voice
from the throat.  Nestle it in a jar
like an embryonic barn owl
suspended with it’s bone-wing scraping the glass.
Tell yourself the familiar songs have all been sung anyway.
Pay no mind to the creature which forms
in the jar. Its small button-mushroom heart
may or may not grow faint with time.
It will stay useless enough, though when you turn
to run through the brambled, wet woods, away from this,
it may sprout teeth and try to chew its way out.
Keep running. There are bees in the meadow;
hum until you cannot hear them.
When they come after you, tear the locket
from your neck and cast it at the swarm. The locket, yes—
it is too heavy. Inside it, even the dead go on with their lives.
When the clasp is shut, behind the soft metal
they are playing the violin and feasting
on candied petals and roasted meats.

That which we cannot see, keeps singing.
 For instance, have you read the stories of ancient Inuit babies
whose mothers died giving birth?
Their fathers buried them alive so they could travel
to the land of the dead, sated at their mothers’ breasts.
Hum loudly enough, you will hear their lullabies--
those nebulous tunes of murder and love.


*

Winter Afternoon

 
All day, birds crowd the suet,
mock-chirp lesser birds who flee
to return  in spring with feathers
rosy from holiday
diets of shrimp or hibiscus.
 
A bleak industry
plucking seed from the fat.
Seeds take a cellular root
all the same,
become seedlings, forming
clandestine and verdant
prayer in the gullet.

                 Hope song, hope song.
 
I have been awake for years.
Each dawn lighting the next
like candles at a vigil.
I don’t even remember
what was lost.

Leah Mooney lives in the small town wilds of western Wisconsin with her husband and daughter. Her work has most recently appeared in Boxcar Poetry Review, Atticus Review, Poemeleon, and A River and Sound Review. 


***


Molly Spencer

Basket

To begin      slender
in a slow river     wading
To curtain the place
     where water     finds land
come loose     from your roots
To be gathered     carried
you know not where
     To relinquish
your long greening
To go hollow     fade     be born
again in water     To soften
     in someone’s hands
their kitchen     To be woven
gentle rhythm
To be      half-done
     To be half-done
for months     and seasons
To pick up again
tender weave
To meet yourself
     coming round     be circle
empty    then full
     empty again
To bear that weight
     To be bridged
    
with a place for holding

*

Window

To begin as sand
     and salt
To crush     mix    
melt in fire
To go suddenly sheer
spill out     over molten 
metal     cool slowly
To be cut to size    To hang
     in someone’s house
their kitchen   
To flare at sunset     spill
lamplight into darkness   
     tremble
against storm wind
To wear a veil     of frost
     in winter     feel
warm breath on your back
To hold in place
     one piece of the world    
moon     in the oak’s arms
shadow of road     unraveling
in the night     silhouette
     of the one
who stands waiting

Molly Spencer is a poet, an avid reader of poetry and almost anything else, and a mother of three. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Linebreak, Escape Into Life, CALYX, Thrush Poetry Journal, Rufous City Review, and other journals. A native Michigander and erstwhile Minnesotan, she now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and their children.

***

Karen J. Weyant

Cicada Days

I dig through the forest floor, scoop
them up, sift through pine needles

and dry leaves of crumbling ferns.
I pluck them from tire swings and garden sheds,

from banisters and birdfeeders.
I only want husks that are unbroken:

Wings settle in place, eyes sockets hollow
Into translucent bubbles, legs still grasping branches.

At dusk, I listen to their pulsating trill,
their low thrum.  Static crumples air

like the radio that crinkles while my sister
sunbathes, belly flat against faded beach towel,

breasts pushing out of her bikini top.
She flicks me away as I’m only a fly.

I watch her, wondering where I will split
from my body, sure it will be through soft skin

beneath my shoulders, in hollow places
rubbed raw from jean waistbands.

 

 

To the Young Stigmatic in an Undisclosed Rust Belt Town

You found your faith early.  You gave quarters to God,
drank communion in plastic cups of cranberry juice,

practiced praying, asking whether it was better
with palms flat, knuckles rigid, or fingers curled
 
so that your nails clasped the back of your hands.
You recited the Bible from memory, weaving    

verses backwards, Shepard my is Lord,
so that your mother swore you spoke in tongues.
  
When the preacher’s daughter stepped away
from Mary’s part in the Christmas play, you volunteered,

comfortable in a blue pillowcase for a veil, at ease
among old cardboard sheep made of mothballs.

You stared at the plastic doll wrapped tight
in blue bedsheets, believing in halos and angels.

So, when the young preacher’s wife grabbed you
that last Sunday, whispered a miracle, and caressed

the palms of your hands, you didn’t want to explain
how brick dust could linger on skin long after

a careless swipe, that dried blackberries left abandoned
in brambles could still prick the skin without leaving  wounds.

Karen J. Weyant's work has appeared or is forthcoming in Barn Owl Review, Cave Wall, Cold Mountain Review, Conte, Copper Nickel, Spillway, The Sugar House Review, and River Styx.  She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Stealing Dust (Finishing Line Press, 2009) and Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt (Winner of Main Street Rag's 2011 Chapbook Contest). She lives and writes in Pennsylvania, but teaches at Jamestown Community College in Jamestown, New York.