There Are 21 Dogs on the To Be Destroyed List

and the journey of a single step disappoints
a thousand miles in all other directions.  My dream
of rescue helicopters and sleighs is related to you, dogs

at risk of destruction, but as much to you,
alert citizen.  Just think, if I started right now
I could probably make it

to where you are whoever you are
though you might be already gone
in some unforgivable way, where you were

remembering you only as seven dozen balloons,
each cluster the beginning of a city
in a new world I could walk towards forever

and never get to.  Can we soften nasty, brutish
and short?  Maybe, maybe not, still I feel
like I’m coughing up teeth

and I will never get where we could be going.
There are 21 dogs on a list with a name
that has been rendered by flushing ink

into precise wounds and this softens
not me, but also it is true that we are all
on that list.  We were beauties, too,

weren’t we?  We thought we were waiting
in cages that moved like train cars
slowing through a town less a town

than the refugee camps we’d been taught to despise.
Maybe we waited in no such cages, maybe
we never didn’t.  The journey of one

is a journey of a thousand maybes
cut into by the shrapnel of the voice, the debris
of loving, the heat lightning of a look

crossing a room.  I would only have it
many other ways.  I want to take a tent
out of my chest full of dancers and acrobats

and a determined, swift girl
who moves from pre-coffin to pre-coffin
to free and lead those to-be-destroyed dogs

like balloons in a stiff wind
to the beach: some will float out over the sea,
others will comb back just ahead of the ebb

until they amble into the city, briefly
well again.  The rest remain, trembling
with unmade song, on the shifting lip

where solid ground becomes beauty unthreading
like a slow catastrophe, like clockwork,
like they were born to it.


Marc McKee received his MFA from the University of Houston and his PhD at the University of Missouri at Columbia. His work has appeared in various journals, such as Barn Owl Review, Boston Review, Cimarron Review, Conduit, Crazyhorse, diagram, Forklift, Ohio, lit, and Pleiades. His chapbook, What Apocalypse?, won the New Michigan Press/diagram 2008 Chapbook Contest, and his full-length collection Fuse, is out now from Black Lawrence Press.  Another full-length book, Bewilderness, is on the way from BLP in 2014.

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  1. Pingback: Table of Contents, Issue Five | Matter

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