Self Portrait In Canine

I’ve trained myself to walk
like a three-legged dog,
but to be still for you,
to imitate porcelain, reflect you back in white.
You may preoccupy me with your shelf dust.
I’ve trained my mouth to sound hesitation, near absence,
the light tap tap tap of calloused paws against tile,
invisible creeping, ghost around the house.

I’ve trained my snout to sweat
and be blacked as an ashman
hauling himself home from work in the evening.
He opens the front door to greet you and the light inside
bastes over him, haggard,
a small, ambiguous protrusion of the night.

Long ago, as if a piece of coal
lay in my stomach digesting,
I learned to howl . . .
another nuisance in the house of gravity,
and everything in the heavens
was another thing I’d never know for sure.
It was then I began
to lap water with my rubber shovel
tongue waggling inefficiently,
to slop it out to the side
like a necktie from a twelve hour work day, loosed
and thrown askew to palpitate
and drizzle impugningly.

Even before you knew me
I was curled up by your back doorstep,
regaling your personal moonlight
(which you had slept through)
with my psalmist snores and whimpers,
pretending to never wake,
dreaming a one-eyed dream . . .
tall cattail reeds bending down to feather my nostrils.
The vegetation’s purring about its moistures.
I sit, sipping the sweet marsh sweat of the abandoned salt marshes.
Strange birds’ vocables hang heavily, fruits
ripening downward from their umbilicals.
The baroque odor of a world mulching itself, bombastic
and utterly lovely.

This is the place where a trail of three
paw prints shambles away.
Where a lone limb, in offering,
rears up its hairy totem
to love and frustrate the sky.

[See Note On This Poem]