Spike Horn by Carol Potter


Dead on the ice a week now, spike horn buck half-
eaten, torn up, and the neighborhood dogs delighting
in it. Running off to roll in it. Pull at it. Like they were
something feral. Tough as the coyotes that yanked it
down in the first place. Mine comes back with blood on his snout.
Scolded, he lies down on the rug. Stink on his fur.
Dog that lies on my bed, sleeps on my couch.
Licks my hands with such tenderness. Dog that goes
with me everywhere. I can smell him across the room.
Fresh meat in his belly. His gut gurgling. So this morning,
I went out on the ice, gathered it up: hide, hooves, the head
still attached by spinal column but everything in between
eaten out. I scooped it into the blue re-cycle box, ribs
half-chewed, sticking up at me, frozen eye open; I
took it away in the car. Laid it down in the woods a mile
from here. The way you do when you have a wild pet
that needs to be freed. Or creatures you don’t want in the yard.
Something you don’t want to kill but you don’t want it
in your garbage can, or up on the porch staring in at you.
You take them far away and leave them. Hope
they won’t find their way back but there’s always that story of
some plucky something traveling 150 miles and ending up on the door-
step scratching at the screen. How surprised the family is when it
reappears; they brag about its intelligence. Such loyalty.
I took the carcass far up the road where my dog won’t be dragging it back here.
That he will be done with it and the neighbor’s dog
be done with it. Which is what we do with the dead.
We hope they stay where they are; and if they come back
we want them to only come back in one piece.
Glossy Hair. Soft, rounded bellies and eyes that look back at us.
Not ruined. And the stories they never told returning with them.
That they will sit down and tell us what they never told us.
The unfinished parts. When they come back.
That they will breathe back the breath they took from the room when they left us.
They will give it back. What they took. When they come back.



Carol Potter is the author of four books of poetry, the most recent of which Otherwise Obedient was a finalist for the Lambda Literary award in LBGT poetry in 2008. Another previous book, The Short History of Pets (1998) won the Cleveland State Poetry Center award. Recent publications include poems in Field, Hanging Loose, River Styx, and forthcoming in Calyx and Sinister Wisdom.