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The Dogs of Duluth Bark Sometimes Until the Sun Lifts the Dark Sky’s Skirt
by Ryan Vine

And now we rise and we are everywhere.
Nick Drake

Right now in your neighborhood
there’s at least one car creeping,
pushed through your cramped streets
like a clot, in which sit four maybe
five boys—most of them high—
two of them drunk—
who are angry at having to be alive.

Sometimes they turn their headlights off
and idle in darkness, faces green
by the stereo’s glow. They think
they’ll go unnoticed, if all the woman
standing in her front yard can hear
is the purring of their engine
which is at this moment louder
than the purring of their anger.

They’re fifteen, except the one old enough
to drive his grandmother’s Skylark.
(She knows they have it. It’s not stolen.)
He’s the one who can grow half a face of hair,
the one who buys beer with folded cash
he flashes from his father’s checkbook.

Let’s take stock of what‘s in the car:
one knee-high glass bong,
one plastic honey bear bong, broken
one backpack stuffed with wet clothes
one boy broken-hearted over his distant mother
one ashtray overflowing
one boy broken-hearted over his lost girl
one crushed Coke can beneath the seat
one boy broken-hearted over his absent father
one boy broken-hearted over fear
one boy whose sadness weighs on him so heavy
he sees himself at night from above it
watches his tiny bed and the bump he is in it
shrink as he floats away. They have various beers
either stolen or bought and one bag of weed
on which the five boys pitched
their daily allowances.

As they pass your house now, they see mothers
in green kitchens, caressing
some child’s red fevered head. A father
in the lap of a bedside light
reads stories near his sleeping son.
They see wives heating pans of water
and tufts of steam beneath stove lights.
They watch the lit windows of your houses trail by.
Each a line back to some other life.
Each a line back to some life they hate.

Don’t get me wrong: They’ll recuperate,
most of them. Even now they’re buoyed, driving along
the railroad, near tracks
that travel endlessly and train cars whose sides
in layered, evolving language
describe unimaginable distances.

Each boy plays the mascot for his pain.
If only there was some way to see
the bulk he pulls behind.
Each boy is in this car together and alone.
Each boy loves the other. They know no love
like theirs. Each boy if he could
would swing open right now the bones
of his own body
and let the rusty trains roll in.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 13.
Nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Ryan Vine’s chapbook, Distant Engines, won a Weldon Kees Award from Backwaters Press; the Greensboro Review awarded his work the Robert Watson Poetry Prize; and his new manuscript, Shiv, was a finalist for the May Swenson Poetry Award from Utah State University Press. He teaches in Duluth, MN, where he is the Rose Warner Assistant Professor of English at the College of St. Scholastica.

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