These were the times he most enjoyed
jousting with his other selves
lashing each other with, what seemed, a thousand tails
rolling in beside that white hot flame
which was the great master of them all,
begging a touch, or a smile, or a bone
they could scramble for beneath his feet
But duty would call, and these moments
of frivolity were all too few.
The necessity to guard the gate
to stand as stalwart as a sculptured stone
at that rivered frontier,
and let in only those whose shadows
had been lost or left behind,
to see to the landing of the boats
that the old man rowed
and nip the stragglers
in their feet
kept him ever alert
ever ready to leap, and snarl,
at the barest suggestion of a command.
Though a dog is a dog
his entire integrity was based
upon this premise
that his purpose was to separate
the dead from the living
the world of light
from the world of darkness.
neither biblical, nor Greek, or Norse,
could have desired
more meaning from its existence.
So why bite, when a bark is enough
Why growl when one flick of a tail
is sufficient to assert the authority
of that indelible, insuperable strength?
And why tear
at one’s prey
when a mere display of teeth
sends them sprawling?
He waved his heads
at the horizon,
each in joint agreement with the other
rolled in the pumice
as he waded in the cool assuaging swirl
of the river’s black sludge.
Then, when he heard the call
he was running.