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Sunday, July 03, 2016


by Michael Mark

"Oh, Say, Can You See (but Not Hear) Those Fireworks?"
The New York Times, June 30, 2016

We are jamming ourselves under the couch,
far as we can. Until another blast and Jessie
crawls even deeper; her massive paws scar
the wood floor. I don’t care. Jessie’s square
head is twice as big as mine; she’s a hundred
and forty pound Newfoundland. And because
she hates fireworks I hate them more. I’d ban
the Roman candles’ machine gun bursts, wipe
out the whistle and bang of bottle rockets, defuse
all firecrackers: they celebrate war, children blow
fingers off, their stringy guts leave a mess over
our trees and lawns. Truthfully, I could live with
all of these if their noise didn’t upset Jess. I’m
with the dogs in every corner of our country tonight,
beneath dining room tables, behind winter coats
in closets, tails between our legs in hot toxic
garages. Even a juicy burger couldn’t bribe us out.
Jess hears the onslaught before me – her dozen
extra doggy ear bones picking up the frequency
of the matchsticks’ phosphorus red heads scraping
three blocks down, the flares’ whooshes, flames
climbing filaments to the climatic celebration
that makes the rest of my family, her family, ooh
and ahh and my BFF whine, burrow towards dust
bunnies, my daughter’s missing sock, MIA potato
chips. I lean into her furry heaviness, kiss her silky
ear, apologize, It’s a human thing. Her giant breed’s
heart is near bursting now—M80s shaking windows—
our quiet cul-de-sac life is under attack by enemy
artillery but I do nothing to stop it. Don’t even hush
my own kids’ screaming racket. Won’t take on the
neighborhood dads in about-faced ball caps, flag t-shirts—
grab their bics, rip their match books. I’m not as brave
as any dog, that includes yappy lap puppets—nowhere
near courageous as Jess. She’d tear into anyone who
bared their teeth at me, take apart a pack of circling
coyotes, and if a Ford F-150 was turning the corner
faster than the15mph speed limit, radio pounding kick-
ass hillbilly, she’d hurl herself between me and that All
American made in Mexico truck, leave it a smoking heap,
sidle up beside my leg and waddle me back home. No big
bad bragging bark. Just a fluffy tail in the air, like a flag, kinda.

Michael Mark is a hospice volunteer. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Cimarron Review, Cutthroat Journal, Paterson Literary Review, Poet Lore, Potomac Review, Rattle, Spillway, Sugar House Review and TheNewVerse.News. His poetry has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes and The Best of the Net.