Country Kitchen in Sayreville sits off I 50,
an isle of green cuts though four lanes
out the window. In 1970 I saw a dead horse
in such an isle only it was winter, Minnesota.
In Sayreville’s new Animal Wellness Center
an hour ago a lady and a guy took dogs
on blue, ribbon-thin, taut leashes through
a door: Princess, Mack and Midnight. Mack
the only one who went willingly, three dogs
I had named, counted on me. I’ve taken two
bites from the sausage patty on my plate
of biscuits and gravy. All I see is Midnight,
born from a moment a lab mounted a Saint
Bernard, or visa versa. You came to me
to be saved and I led you to death, turned
you over to the lady, and you looked at me.
Kathryn said, Marty, we have to be here,
we couldn’t stay where we were, better here
with the County funding. Yes, it’s climate
controlled. So was Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn
the day I took an oath, April, 1966, to serve
my country. My Princess, Mack, Midnight,
I took an oath and betrayed you, betrayed
myself. Kathryn was there. “We had to do it.”
Had to kill off three old ones so there’s room
for the others we brought here, to stay in
cages, with the others, the County dogs.
I’m director of Sayerville Pets in Need. Our
old place, when we had a hard rain, flooded.
Now, this new faculty, winter-warm,
summer-cool, dry. No electric bill to pay.
West Texas, we take care of stray animals.
I can’t touch the biscuits. I’m thinking of
the dead horse I saw from a Greyhound
outside Mankato. Midnight looked right into
my eyes, not wanting to budge. He knew,
animals know. They can take these biscuits
and gravy to the dumpster out back, a stray
will find some that’s spilled over. A pickup
blows by on I 50, a black lab in its bed.
Should be law against that. I should be
with those thee that were mine to keep
till we could adopt them out, they never had
any interest. Three old dogs. It’s as if I’d
stopped my pickup and Midnight ran up,
and I gave him food and water by the side
of the road, and in the cab, shifted into first
telling myself he lives on a nearby ranch.