~This poem was previously published in Clockworks (2011).
Among twenty sleeping row houses,
The only restless thing
Was the voice of the Pit Bull
I was of three headaches
Like a neighborhood in which there are as many
The Pit Bull paced in the dealer’s yard.
It was but a small part
Of my anxiety.
A man and his dog are one.
A hustler, his stash
And a loyal Pit Bull
Are frightening .
I do not know which to prefer:
The disdain of neighbors
Or the disdain of neighbors.
The Pit Bull breeding-
Or the policeman rolling his eyes.
Rain covered the picture window
With a posse of tear drops.
The ghosts of battered Pit Bulls
Crossed it to and fro
The mood traced in the shadows
Followed me into sleep.
O longtime brothers of Brightwood-
Why do you secretly long for Chocolate Labs?
Do you not see how the Pit Bull
Sits at the feet of the players
I know quieter cities,
and black men with unconquered livers.
But I know, too,
That the Pit Bull is involved in
What I wish I didn’t know.
When the Pit Bull strode in the shadows-
It turned the asphalt into a pungent river.
The sight of a Pit Bull charging down
Would make even the most ardent dog lover
Surrender the sidewalk.
He traveled the city
In a quiet subway.
Once, a fear pierced him
In that he mistook a sister’s ringtone
For that of a Pit Bull.
The block is silent.
The Pit Bull and his owner
Must be away.
It was evening all afternoon
And it was going to rain.
The folorn Pit Bull sat in his
THE STORY BEHIND THE POEM
The inspiration for this piece is twofold: Wallace Stevens’ shadowy and lyrical "Thirteen Ways Of Looking At A Blackbird,” and some notes I began taking while observing a former neighbor in my hometown of Washington, D.C. I think Stevens’ poem is a sublime meditation on the subject and the environment in which it exists, so I wanted to use his vehicle (think of a jazz musician working off of pre-existing chord structures) to examine various emotional responses to the aforementioned neighbor.
ABOUT REUBEN JACKSON
Reuben Jackson lives in Winooski, Vermont—where he hosts Friday Night Jazz on Vermont Public Radio, and works as a mentor with the Young Writers Project. His poetry has appeared in 30 anthologies, journals like Gargoyle and The Indiana Review, and a volume of poetry entitled “fingering the keys.”