Knives or paint were nixed in advance,
instead, a substitute fun concocted:
the stylish albino pumpkins, seemingly clean,
their featureless faces to be scrubbed by eager children,
who heard of slime inside, envisioned clinging seeds.
And, the burning candle, and the singe.
A grown girl born elsewhere
loved her first pumpkin ever,
a coy and minimalist affair,
Carved by her boyfriend (not really a boy anymore).
Then lit on the porch, then peering in:
equal squares for eyes and nose and mouth,
its sagging face turned sad in the photo,
where glowing blocks stared back from darkness.
A vegetable turned human.
Or, a banished dog.
("Stop barking" to the dog sounds. Sharply stopped.)
Then, the trees turned dusty, loosed their grip.
The dog-face seemed to grin.
In that voice for scolding dogs:
You better get over here, Now!
Dog itself invisible, implied.
Dogs in the neighborhood overhear.
And Alarm. Call and Answer. Bird clamor.
Silence then. The scolding man went in.
Did the man whup that dog?
Or was it just a cell phone rant?
An old old guy had recently said:
They treat dogs better than this.
Just give em a shot
to end their misery when they get sick.
Big Hugh, with his weird lowered eyes,
that want to look up, that cannot, really.
What went on with Hugh, to cause that flicker.
Rescued, but not really.
Speckled, huge, like a cartoon cow, down
to the knees. Then legs of a different color,
dipped in black lacquer, shuffling, stoic.
Say his name in a whisper, almost telepathic.
He pretends not to hear, but he stops--his clue.
Alert as the man in the hospital bed, waiting
for your next move from outside the door, from the hall.
Will you shove a wooden stick--tongue blade--coated
with goo: crushed chemicals and ice cream,
to make it slide down between his tight lips?
Hugh too, waiting, acting nonchalant,
but on edge, peeking up briefly from lowered lids,
pretending not to look, not barking, not making any
sound, barely breathing, expecting just about anything.
Had his voice box been severed, like the show dog's?
A tiny squeak from the cartoon cow.
That thin, precarious boundary between species.
That possible spark when eyes meet.
Good Hugh (whisper, slow, trying to soothe) Good boy.
Roan Ticking Hawk
A stark hawk, high up.
You can almost tell,
by how quiet
the other birds get
as it looks and looks.
Invisible and silent:
that bare art of intent
we had been talking about.
How to erase the past.
Where the hawk sat
no leaves left at all.
But the earth far beneath:
scattered, purple, clotted.
© Ann Lederer