9.3 / March 2014

Ars Poetica with a Dead Dog in It

I find his body in a ditch more compelling
                                                                             than any surreal argument.
He smells sour as hell, & the flies
                                                             buzz from him in a black choiring
I acknowledge as real—& true—
                                                           making me crave in my own poetry
not some cleverness lost
                                             down postmodern drainage, but his corpse,
which cannot get up:
                                       plain & strange, dead in the dirt as Abel
after Cain lured him
                                      with a faulty promise to the grave too early.

Praise this dead, country dog with a thousand maggots feasting
whitely on him & their luminescence, I pray tonight before
burying him. Praise what is obvious, unflinching, and blindly
itself without trying to be. Poetry of dead dogs in deep ditches

remains my most constant affection
                                                                 in this fallen world: besides
language, of course—beauty buried
                                                                in it—canine prayer
between light & dark, heaven
                                                      & earth which takes time
pronouncing, but remains
                                                 on my tongue, & your tongue,
&—regardless of our own
                                                perceptions of it—this dead
dog’s dead tongue animated:
                                                    licking every hand
offered him frankly, with joy,
                                                       thinking nothing of it.

J. Scott Brownlee is a Writers in the Public Schools Fellow at NYU and founding member of The Localists. His work appears in The Kenyon Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Ninth Letter, RATTLE, and elsewhere. Highway or Belief, his chapbook, won the 2013 Button Poetry Prize.
9.3 / March 2014