Studio portrait of a dog, by Julius Hall. Courtesy of the New York Public Library.

Although he stinks,
I love to hold his small
brokenness on my lap,
reeking teeth worn down
on a metal cage to almost
nothing, tongue that hangs
clear out when he feels
safe. I love that he came,
tail wagging, when the
dog catcher called,
hind legs dragging, mangy,
fur fallen mostly out,
mangled spine, freakish
callous on one toe
from scraping it behind.
His ear with the hematoma
will never be the same.
It is bent clear over
like a very old man.
He will not be right
again. He’ll run
three-legged and leak
urine in slow, acid
drops onto his hind legs
and belly. Yet willingly
he came creeping.
And now, on the end
of his new leash,
how he frisks!
How joyously
he hobbles along!

Francesca Bell is a poet and translator living in Novato, California. Red Hen Press will publish her first book, Bright Stain, in May, 2019.
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