Black Dog Ritual
Find a black stick
Black like slicked pitch.
Dark black like the fur on a wet dog’s back.
Dark black like the spaces between trees in a midnight forest.
Dark dark black like the snap of a bone in an angry jaw.
Balance the stick on your palms.
Cup your fingers around
rough mossy bark.
Wonder if it is the one but also know deeply
that this is the one.
This is it.
Clutch it to your chest,
wild but gentle.
Don’t ever lose it.
This stick is her.
Your mother? Sister? Was it your cousin?
No your grandmother. Your friend from school?
Your wife? Your little little baby? The mother of your baby?
cancer? car accident? botched surgery? childbirth?
old age, or wait was it a stroke?
heart attack? miscarriage? miscarried?
This is her.
This is all you have of her and all you will ever have of her, so don’t lose it.
Think about losing it.
Fear losing it.
Hide it under your pillow for three nights
On night one:
Dream of gnashing teeth.
Of four faces,
of four thousand wings.
Sleep in too late.
On night two:
Dream of a pen quickly scratching old parchment.
Oily black ink on ancient scraped calf’s skin.
When you wake up you won’t remember her name.
On night three:
Dream of the snip snipping of old shears
Snip snip snip
Wonder- if you fall asleep again will you ever wake up?
Once your three nights have ended,
take the stick out back.
Bury it like a black dog buries a bone.
Mark the spot with something.
Something that smells a little like dirt
and a little like iron.
Something a little heavier than it looks.
Something like a smooth oval stone
that’s little grey and a little white,
but when it rains,
it almost looks black.
Try to forget about the stick for a while
But sneak quick looks at the spot
out of the corner of your eye.
Peek at it when you let the dog out,
and when you hang the laundry.
And after a while passes,
pretend like you’ve forgotten
about the stick.
And move on.
Don’t be scared
When she slides under your house.
When you hear her jaws snap beneath
Your floorboards like sharpened glass,
You’ll know what she wants.
Don’t let her take it.
Find your broomstick,
the one mama gave you.
Swing it blindly under your house
until you hear a cold scaly thud.
Peek under the porch.
Two eyes gleam back at you
metallic and warm,
Better to see you with, my sweet.
Crawl under to meet her,
Slipping your belly across damp earth.
This is what its like to be a lizard, you guess.
Two yellow spots spread through the musky dark,
Yell to her,
You can’t stay. You have to go.
She almost looks like she understands,
but claw by claw,
She swims farther into the earth.
Her tail may skim your skin
as you scramble to keep up
I think we’re under the kitchen now.
keep following her
into the hollowed pitch
until you wonder,
how long has it been?
one year and one day,
or just a few minutes?
Damp dirt turns wet.
The darkness is water,
oily and black.
Let the velvet liquid bleed into your skin,
gulp it into your sloshing lungs,
let it seep into the folds of your brain and
your eyelashes and
your cells and mitochondria and DNA,
I am obsidian water.
use your new liquid eyes
to stare deeply into the
that puncture the yawning void.
better to see you with.
Keep staring even as your stomach steadily fills with something
like nostalgia or maybe it’s dread.
A vintage craving,
or maybe it’s just dark water.
Let her stare pierce your head and
drain the black liquid from your skull.
Your eyes pouring out like fat dew worms.
Leather claws grasp at you and
pull you out, water baby.
and drag your liquid body upwards,
and sink two gifts into your palms:
better to see you with my dear
Where are you?
You know these trees,
But don’t quite remember from where.
Beneath your feet, spongy earth
squishes between your stepping toes.
Stop walking, just stand.
Listen to the drone of the cicadas.
Smell the sharp apricot of the sweet olive tree,
Dig three handfuls of dirt
out of the soft ground.
Big scoops of thick swamp mud.
Soggy dark clots of roots and worms
blacken your fingernails.
Slow your breath.
Pause and think,
How did I get here,
why can’t I remember?
Sometimes you remember better when you lie down.
Fall back. Close your eyes.
Everything is soft and black like a bristled pelt.
Don’t forget about the dirt;
pack it heavy onto your chest.
Laugh to yourself at the familiar weight.
dust to dust
You and the earth have a secret together.
If you want it bad enough,
the dirt becomes possum.
A small soft body,
long prickled claws,
teeth, and all.
Squeeze her tight to your chest,
digging fingers into dusty fur.
Try to not to be disappointed when she slithers off,
skittering dry leaves.
can you remember yet?
Let the soft weight of the dirt
sink into your chest.
Between each rib,
around ventricle and vena cava,
all the way through,
‘til it touches the dirt beneath you.
You can almost taste it;
damp earth, rotted leaves, death, life, waste, existing…
of taut twine,
of air between
snips of sharp shears,
soft skin soothing your forehead,
smoothing your worry,
age is a gift
to help you find your way back home
this isn’t the end;
there is always after.