The Double Leash

Blizzard to lilac. Dandelion
to leaf. Endless
variation of seasons I note

in passing, smells
I cannot smell: rotting
gardens, feces, musk of cat.
These two

run in front of me, golden
shoulder to patchwork, heads
lifted or lowered into

scent, tongues lolling. Ears
damp with their own
spittle and each other's

tell me, tethered a pace behind,
their journey's epic: tipping
forward to the familiar or
stranger's distant yap; angling

to my breathing, whispered
praise, my slightest

The shepherd
throws herself into

any whirring wheel, to herd
the neighbor's tractor mower or
the UPS truck's packets
home; pulling her back,

the golden's oblivious
ballast, instinct heading
always for the gutter's

deepest puddle, her own way
within the forked leash's
one-foot range. As we pass,

the clans set up
their barking, as if we
were news, gathering center

of a congenial warning
din—mine answer with
disturbances of pace, an extra pull
or lollop, grins thrown

slant-eyed over shoulders
until one hears a call
she can't ignore, surrenders

to baying's ferocious
joy moving through
muscle and bone. Moving
storm, storm's eye: happy

universes whirl in their skins
as I do in mine. Unknowable,
their fate. Mediums between
foreign principalities, they're tied

to me, to each other, by my will,
by love; to that other realm
by song, and tooth, and blood.

More Poems by Katharine Coles