My dog pulls the leash, yanks me left, then right,
jumps at the gnome in someone’s lawn, stands
on hind feet to survey the breadth of his universe.
He lunges at cars and strains toward squirrels,
whirls and snaps at the breeze on his flank,
barks at nothing I see. A growl quivers, ready,
raising the ridge of black on his pelt,
but he welcomes the hand I place on his head,
and a glance signals he knows it is my turn
to put things in perspective for him,
soothe the false terrors, mute the world’s jangle,
dampen the sting of dreams and unknowable scents.
I tell him I love him. Inside again, he instantly leaps
to curious sounds, fake TV doorbells, the rising voices
of bad global news. But then he reposes—a profound
letting go that drains the air of innate concerns,
the unease of existence, the churn of my soul.
At my touch he raises his head, then falls back asleep.
He has taken the world’s measure for me.
Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin’s poetry has appeared in The Field Guide Poetry Magazine, Third Wednesday, The Orchards Poetry Journal, Grasslimb, and elsewhere. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Carrie also writes speculative fiction and has had short stories in Supernatural Tales, Bards and Sages Quarterly, Luna Station Quarterly, and Fiction Vortex. She is author of the horror novel Snare, a member of the Horror Writers Association, and one of five coconspirators in The Penheads, a writers’ group that publishes anthologies of its members’ work.