No Dog this Time

By Bryan Nystrom

Hungry for symmetry he walks railroad tracks to the far
corn field, double barreled twenty gauge cradled
in the crook of an arm, hard as the October sun is cold
in his face. No dog this time, only dry gravel, wind, the shortening day,
the coming dark. Two iron rails long rusted run west, those two
parallel lines some sad geometer claimed never touch, yet never
diverge, run out to infinity, that land of imagination, mathematics,
love and longing. A remembered ache, the future ache, deep as bone,
but today the smell of rusted steel, creosote, cinders, fall rot,
thick black loam. Life smells different without a dog.
Row upon row of dry corn crackles a breeze.
Like the answer to a prayer he forgot to say the cock pheasant
explodes into flight and the shotgun lifts itself to his shoulder
and the safety is off and the bird flies into the sun
and he lets it fly and the tears dry on his face before he can recognize
the tangent of his life. He walks and begins again,
the old worn out proof, the surprise of the inevitable conclusion,
the unexpected turn towards home.

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