The Fieldstone Review

Bitten

by M. Brett Gaffney

Bitten        

My pack’s mouths full of teeth and talking. 
They ask me to learn their body language, 
how the hair stands up on their spines 
like a slope of pine trees, 

why their lips curl back like a scared kid
fingering his brother’s pocket knife. 

In East Texas, two dogs attack a small girl,
their bodies like angry bricks.
Doctors say half her face is paralyzed.

The next day I kneel down beside
one of the outsiders, a wiry mutt
shaking in the corner of the room,
the hole in his side like a crawfish nest.

He won’t look at me while I clean him.
I want to believe he remembers 
my blood in his mouth, my scars
and bright spots like stars constellating
my skin.  But maybe he doesn’t.  

Maybe it’s just that some dogs bite
and some dogs don’t and some that don’t
do when the right moment comes along, 
when the tension is hot and foggy, 
and our bodies are just flesh in the way.

Sometimes I dream about just letting them fight. 

I stand back and watch the storm unfold,
the meanest of them sitting beside me,
and the little girl’s there too with her hand 
on the beast’s head, his tail wagging 
to the beat— we are all of us hunger.