Image by Jonny Gios

May Day

On May Day, my lay days, O, these dog days

are long gone. A good boy, I laid down with

whimpering when kicked into next Tuesday.

A moon rises on Volgograd, a curse

hollows me clean out, hallows me into

a religious mutt. I’ve behaved badly,

played pretend iconoclast, couldn’t cut

it, broken habits, at risk of losing

you and all. I belly flop, my stomach

flipping, and turn over prone, trying to

trust, a stray vaguely recalling the ghost

of a tummy scratch. I’m turning circles

and chasing my tail between my hind legs.

I’m known to heel, a false repute, heeding

quite needlessly stringent misdemeanors

while bucking the felonies that matter

and will one day send me to the Gulag.

Now behold, trembling: I am beginning

to picture all of this a pilgrimage

with me hard-fought and dusty, mangy and

crusty, flea-ridden but no longer half-

hidden, and could die from this exposure.

The only problem with this becoming

a pilgrimage means nothing for no one

will come looking: He’s on a pilgrimage,

that one. Best let him be. These cries for help,

those whoops and hollers and whoopsie-daisies

are between him and his maker. Best let

sleeping dogs lie, pilgrim. I hear the town

crier calling in a commie-loathing

John-Wayne drawl. I’m trying, and for being

trying all this time, yea, though you lead me

beside still waters they’re still because they’re

frozen here. I can’t lap at them but then

maybe that’s what you want: to get my tongue

stuck in the trying and so unable

to lollygag around any longer.

Voicemail in Wet Season

It’s me again. Let me run something by

you, soak up a minute of your time in

the way we both like. I know you’d rather

 

skip along the surface, content if you

will, with the outermost layer of clothes

we peel off in the moment, a second

 

as if a New York Minute, like that skimmed

buttermilk, before we toss the dripping

rest of them. With a detail-heavy eye

 

inspecting the matryoshka, we laugh

at the first glance—the devil inside is

already hiccupping along with us—

 

and zhuzhing up the air we share to size

me up. Whatever this is, it’s a joke

to cut through our baggage, a tallest tale

 

with no promise of takeaway, a botched

delivery by the way of rambling

tongues. If you’re down with it, don’t mind my own

 

leaving. This is a shaggy dog story.

I don’t know its breed but do know it’s massive.

JACOB SCHEPERS (he/him) is a poet from the Midwest. He is the author of A Bundle of Careful Compromises (Outriders Poetry Project) whose writing has appeared in or is forthcoming in Verse, Midway Journal, PANK, Heavy Feather Review and elsewhere. He is a founding editor of ballast, a journal of poetry and poetics, and he tweets @JacobSchepers.