In the Dust
And then in the dust he drew a face,
the face of a woman, and he asked
the man drinking whiskey beside him
if he’d ever seen her, or knew who she was,
all the time staring down at her, as if
this would make her whole. And then,
at the shake of the head, he let his boot
dissolve her into a settling cloud.
He threw another plank on the fire,
drained his glass and filled it again,
watching his dog rise to its feet
and start to growl at the dirt-road
that stretched, empty, to the hilly horizon.
A shiver coincided with the dog’s first bark,
that doubled, trebled, became gunfire
that stopped nothing coming, so he stood
to confront it, but not even a wind
brushed his face, no shape formed,
and after the dog went quiet, a hand
helped him sit down and rejoin his glass.
from Sanctuary (Cape, 2004), © Matthew Sweeney, 2004, used by permission of the author and The Random House Group Ltd.