Top Dog

                Top Dog


These were the times he most enjoyed

plopping about

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

All this

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.


No god

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

His thoughts

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.