The Dog Trainer
Dear Heavenly Holy,
If you are what they say you are, then receive this thanks be, this all praise for the glory of dog who is given unto me, a social dreg caught up behind bars, who is now become savior for this unwanted and doomed Canis lupus familiaris, left in a kill-shelter for his incorrigibility, next on the list for the little red shot. Ah, Great Surpriser, did you know that the doomed are the most fun to save? I confess that I grow to like being a god of dog, how my training it to be acceptable for a home that’s not bars and guns makes of my heart a house for strange, warm and living things, melts rusted hinges, pries windows open and lets something in that I don’t recognize. I see it in the eyes of ye dog who will go away soon, but oh thou Great Thing, the house stays open. The light does not hurt.
God Answers the Dog Trainer in 4 Voices
Letter received and duly noted. You are twisting in the tangled bedsheets
of the law and thus the need for dog. Dismantle capital and you erase
the entire premise of crime.
Most sincerely, etc.
Dude. Dial it down.
Glad you’ve got the dogs man
but work on your chi.
Shake it out baby.
Find yourself a doobie.
Time’s a spec in that nutso blue lab
I’ve got you all in.
Dogs were easy. Getting you
out of there, not so.
The stone of your living
will not right now roll away.
Thou cup of light, thou butterfly and pause
thou stumbler, thou seedling, thou mine.
Thou ignorant, thou sweet, you see not
how the breath of you greens the universe
expands it like air in the cages of your lungs
your words strung across the sky like Mardi Gras
O god of dog, O god of god, O very god of very god
to your open and light filled house
amid steel and lockstep and lockjaw
and all that locks you in
I offer thee dogs and the rest of my world
for as long as you stay in it.
Helio Gomes Prison, Rio de Janiero
This lipstick’s just my pretty-up. The camisole’s all mine. I’ve got a shard of mirror glass, but still my makeup smears and pigeons shit right through the roof, what’s left of it, and so the rain. That’s why this filthy plastic’s strung up everywhere. Try sleeping on a birdshit slab one rainy hell hot night. I know my clothes look tawdry, trash. My skirts are torn, I’m out of shape. I once was Queen of Carnaval–I could have kept up ten years more –I’m in this cage for twenty-one. I brought home cash and scars, some food, but now who’s caring for my son? When ten straight men jump down on me from 6‑foot walls, they think it’s fun to fuck the fancy queer. The guards are scarce but still I dance each time one passes by. A marchinha. I’m alive! Hear that? I’m still alive.
Ann Folwell Stanford’s poetry, academic essays and books have been published widely. Poetry has appeared in the Michigan Quarterly Review, Southern Poetry Review, Slipstream, JAMA, Artemis, Blue Mesa Review, the Comstock Review and others. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart and she was a writer-in-residence at the Everglades National Park in 2017. She was one of 100 Chicago poets to collaborate on a book-length pantoum, published as “American Gun.” She is a Vincent DePaul professor emerita from DePaul University.