Childhood, East Texas

Painting by granddaughter Margaret Katrina, age 7, of her puppy Apple Jack

The dog went with the boy
across the dirt road, past
the sycamore limbs reaching out
above disc plows and harrows
where the boy often sat in the Y of
limbs bending almost to the blades
and never thought danger
but only that he was riding
a creature more myth than tree,
and the dog, more wolf than dog,
would lay his chin on his paws
and follow with his eyes
the lift and fall of the boy.

So the boy and the dog passed
the sycamores, the fallow field
and entered the woods–pine
and red oak, sweet gum, and maple–
pausing at the dank creek banks,
mud and the snapping turtle,
its hooked beak and jaws wider than
the boy’s leg, and the wolf dog
circumscribing the snapper,
shouting and darting in–quick jab
then falling back, knowing the reptile
afraid of no creature of flesh and bone,

and the boy walking into the tall grass,
moving away from the creek,
toward the cow pasture, and the dog
lunging across the boy’s front
to come up with a moccasin in his mouth
and shake the poison from the pit viper’s
cheeks and fling the five feet of snake
away from the boy and stand watch
until the bands of muscle ceased to writhe.

The dog would remain immune to all until
the bob white’s call to return to the woods
from whence he came when the boy was five,
called back to that secret indentation in the earth
where he must go, as always, before the boy.