I hit him with my right bumper
driving past the last dry creek bed before town,
and I thought I heard him yelp a quick cry.
He was still breathing.
His eyes, open, looked like any dog’s,
and his muzzle, parted, did too,
but the teeth and ears were fiercer triangles.
His body, torqued due to force,
rested there rooted in the asphalt
as his breaths came quick and shallow.
The gash on his shoulder appeared not to gush blood
but was split open like a crack in the road,
and his fur, filled with desert scourge—
thistles and thorns turned brown and brittle—
seemed never to have bothered him at all.
I reached out and touched his front paw,
the pads worn to a thick smoothness,
the claw rasped down to a nub.
The sky darkened in increments like a bruise,
the sun lowering behind West Wing mountain.
I looked in his eyes as his breaths grew shorter;
he stared toward the car—the door still open,
the dome light on, the dinging announcing
what I had forgotten.
Jia Oak Baker is the author of the chapbooks Crash Landing in the Plaza of an Unknown City (Dancing Girl Press) and Well Enough to Travel (Five Oaks Press). Her work has appeared in The Good Men Project, Profane, Poet Lore, DMQ Review, Likewise Folio, and elsewhere. She received a 2015 grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and has also been awarded artist residencies from the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation and Hedgebrook. Jia lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and teaches writing at Paradise Valley Community College.
Ben McClendon is a PhD student in creative writing at the University of Tennessee. He previously studied poetry at Northern Arizona University after teaching high school English for several years. His poems have appeared in Indiana Review, Yemassee, Ceasura, Chariton Review, Redivider, Rattle, and elsewhere. He is currently Assistant Poetry Editor for Grist: The Journal for Writers and a poetry editor for Four Ties Lit Review. Ben lives with his husband in Knoxville.