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.