BY WANDA FRIES
I have tried everything to get rid of him:
left him with friends and in kennels
or in caves where he disappears not even a shadow
but his eyes ﬂicker like ﬂames adjust to the dark—
I am hardly back into the sunlight
before I sense him already behind me, following me home—
I would poison him but what dose would I use to kill and not maim him?
He demands too much of me as it stands.
I put him outside every morning trying not to touch him
I give him the boot my foot against his warm hide. He resists me
then for reasons of his own buckles and gives in. I go about my business
try to ignore him he leaps and charges the door or worse
I will pass the windowed door to see him pressing his nose
against the glass panting in despair and resignation until
I must open the house again. I pat the air above his head poor fellow
tell him I love him though I wish he would ﬁnd another place—
He lies on a rug near me wants to please me wants to own me. From time to time
he lifts his head in adoration and hatred craving any word.
When I glance up in thought he rises and approaches in joy and longing
as if surely I must comprehend at last he is my own my black dog
my blessing my burden and he will never leave me, no—
He is mine in the place where the blighted leaf trembles in terror
and the tree stands upright black as the hands of a clock at midnight
he pulls me to the edge of the mountain where the souls of the dead
continue their journey and to the gouge in the earth
where the Nothing that waits has the weight of disaster
the vacuum created by a collapsing star—
Black dog relentless companion he pads beside me wolves
sing to each other in the needle-laden dark in daylight
just below the line of my vision he calls me to perfection
to crumbled leaves and bitter unguents the terrible beauty
of branch and bone my black dog my blessing my burden
he pulls me through the green and lovely terror of my crazy ﬂowering—
I cling root and tendril to earth and wall
the buds of one rose swell and ripen the petals of another
turn loose and fall—
Wanda Fries’ poem “Annunciation” won the 2009 James Baker Hall Memorial Prize in Poetry. She earned a master of ﬁ ne arts in ﬁ ction from Bennington College and received an Al Smith Fellowship for ﬁ ction from the Kentucky Arts Council. Her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies, including New Growth: Recent Kentucky Writings and Sojourners.
Editor’s Note: This poem was a semifinalist in the 2009 New Southerner Literary Contest.