I. Rabies

Rabies ain’t nothin’
but a share-
cropper, moving

from place to place—
in fact, it’s
use to make-do

starts from scratch
and ravening
bites into a poor shack

of dogtrot flesh
barely hid
from the shiftless sun.

It hauls its sorry self
from wound
to cell to chain-

link spine and brain—
which takes
some squat and nerve—

never once settlin’ long.
That little
piece of shit (shaped

like a bullet, and that’s
the god-
damned truth) will

even make you feared
of rain—
which you begged

the blank heavens for
all your
live-long days, till

some stray dog you
kept, fed,
and friended turned

mad on the swept
yard and
brought all your

weevil-plagued dreams
to a wagon-
load of grub-et waste.

II. Bite One

Ironically, the dog
that bit me
first was a stray pet
named Smiley.

I still have a B&W
photo of us
in the flower box
built from lumber scraps

around the pecan tree
outside our house—
because every
God-believin’ soul

needs some spring pretty
to raise hope
when daffodils push up
from buried bulbs.

I am two, dressed
in a white Carter’s
Fox Cap / Sleep-&-Play
like a little

astronaut suited for his
ride to the moon.
The black
band of derelict fur

that stretches over
Smiley’s face makes a lanky
canine Clayton Moore.
The one eye

I can barely see
seems to say, I’m sorry
for the coming bite
and blood,

for the lunar madness
in my brain, the fourteen
deep-muscle shots
in your gut—

sorry for all the strange
ways this crazy place
can blast you
straight off the earth.

III. Bite Two

The second time, at five,
it was a cat.

I have no memory of this—
not like the dog,

which put the fear of God
of dogs in me

for years to come. I know
my Uncle C. J.

scoured fields and barns
for days, for fur,

for carcass, when naught
could be found.

So, another round of shots
in the belly,

of screams, of dragging me
to the car,

of holding me down on the steel
table like a soul

who saw no light at the end
of the tunnel,

who could not shake flesh
loose and be free

of all the teeth and needles
that pierced him

with unnameable, unwanted
vengeance and mercy,

through and through, to a pain
that weren’t nothing new.

IV. Crazy

I got the crazy
from my mom. She had visions
and heard voices.

She saved scores
of people from tragic accidents
just by seeing

them in her head
and taking it to the Lord.
We were close.

Of course, a lot
of people tried to kill her
too, which means

being a kid
was complicated—always
on the look-

out for her
moods. She was a spotter
for the Aircraft

Warning Service
in 1942—Eyes, Aloft!
Sometimes, I

imagine her—poor,
thin, and tense in a pitch-black
South Georgia

pencil, log, and silhouette

in hand.
She is meticulous, clear-
headed, keen,

for the inexorable enemy
to come.


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