[a double sonnet]
The year my father was five, his family crammed
two wagons full of kids, clothes, chickens, seeds,
consigned the Texas farm to tenants or weeds
and aimed for Oklahoma's promised land.
Jack went along, a rangy reddish hound
of no clear breed but many roles: trail pard,
coon hunter, cattle herder, sharp-eared guard
against roughnecks, untamed Indians, each stray sound.
In Oklahoma, fertile soil came high.
Good hay cost more than meat. The hens caught cold
and Kiowas spooked the mules. My grandpa toiled
to keep the corn and cows from going dry.
But tempers flared. Jack nipped a skittish cow
and Grandpa yelled at Jack, "Just git home now!"
Jack walked away, head bent, tail down, slow stride.
Like all my father's folks, Jack had his pride.
Tracing the path he'd come, three hundred miles
of burrs and dust, he inhaled each inch to find
those firmer friends he'd somehow left behind.
The tenants welcomed Jack, but scraps and smiles
meant home no more than the farm's familiar dirt.
His paws were bloody stubs. He wouldn't eat,
grew thinner, wilder, shivering in the heat.
At last a friendly rifle eased Jack's hurt.
When Pa was six, the family headed back
to Texas too: better than what they'd found.
"A poor and wasted year," my grandpa frowned.
"But what hurt worst of all was losing Jack."
Alan C. Elms