Dog pawing the awnings of restaurants in Ulaanbaatar
where the State Department store hawks dog dreams
to businessmen who cast shadows like pit mines
deep enough for dog bodies to fall asleep inside. Oh dog
roped to the old Soviet pillar, roped to an oil drum
full of vodka. Dog roped to a car husk, head stuck
through the radiator & staring at the dead metal flywheel,
mill-wheel. Dog snared by flight, mired in fetal freedom
on a staircase to the first world, feral & chained by fur
to the cracked rib cage of hunger. Three dogs in a garbage pile
near the temple shed. Dog tongue licking the sacred horse skull,
licking the wounded shaman’s hand, the land. Dog head stuck
inside a mayonnaise jar beneath the deep bellow of Asian sky,
stuck to a body beneath a season of ice, stuck to a cup
of goat milk souring on midwinter’s fatal white cloth.
God, you are an old trick in reverse; pick a horse-head fiddle
backward until scales shed like fur. Run until your hooves
turn to pads and the plateaus of your teeth
peak into canines; run until you run
the hills into camel backs and your four legs
blacken, bloody as the first newborn colt of Spring.
On the broken fire escape, dog. In a pile of dogs
on the burnt black factory floor,
dog. Dead in a winter field, frozenblooded, dog.
Blown into myth, howling into the ice wind
from the edge of legend to be born
again from the foggy womb of the hoodoo, dog.
However the sky falls, we were there, and we were not dogs.
On horseback in the wide-mouthed valley, the immensity
above us, like some lost faith, threatening rain, we passed
dog after dog guarding the hashas and flocks. They chewed
sheep into shin bones, chewed the sinew cords
from the ger poles, the legs from wrestling statues—
they coughed up prophecy, swallowed the long winter
where gods walk on knees, kept falling asleep
in the wild wind-swept scruff of steppe. Or
that part can’t be true—those dogs never slept.
I still see them, in full sprint across the blue khadag of the sky,
their matted fur turning slowly to snow.