Stone Telling

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A Black Dog

by Mat Joiner

The days when this body's a prison ship, and
the nights when I am on the ledge of three AM,
not yet ready to jump: these are his times.
I've always known his face lies close behind mine;
wan eyes, dark muzzle yearning to break too-thin skin.

He needs no moon. A shadowed mind calls him
just as well: a hound born of hollows and rime.
A mental winter is good hunting weather.
The change is swift, but hardly surprising; after all,
he's almost the same shape as I.

And we lead a pack of megrims down hill
and through valley, under skies where
stars bloom grey, stalking joy. I wake with
the shreds of once-sweet thoughts between my teeth;
spoor running through every word I ever spoke.

He lies, almost spent, puddled about my feet:
a slat-sided beast, furred with regret.
I would kennel him with titles; but Shuck,
Yeth, Ki Annwn, they will not do. He answers
to my name. I am hound-husband.

Mat Joiner lives near Birmingham, England. His fiction and poetry have appeared in Strange Horizons, Not One of Us, Never Again, Through The Gate, and Sein und Werden. He accumulates books, and prefers cats to dogs.

Photography: Rare New Jersey Black Wolf by Nathan Siemers.