The Country Dog Review

Spring/Summer 2012

Winner of The Argos Prize

Sarah Coury

The Boys

Around and around the cul-de-sac,

the boys on bikes ride furious rings.

There is only one way out.

In the evening,

sprinklers pulse with a noise
like laughing through one’s teeth,

street lights hiss a brownish glow,

a burden of revealing:

babies in the nurseries,

dogs in the dog houses,
two cars in two-car garages,

and the boys

hurling stones against the pavement,
yanking the crabapple limbs,

trying without knowing to pull all of it down,

back to the rough and treeless plain

where, over steady yellow eyes,

only their antlers collide

with a crack that sounds for miles,

and the unobstructed wind that never wanes.

Sarah Coury lives in southwest Michigan with her husband and son, where she works as a seasonal field biologist. Her writing has appeared previously in the journals New Millennium Writings and In the Mist, as well as National Geographic Traveler online.


Mary Biddinger

To a Wrecking Ball

They tore down the third wall of my building.

By then we were too old to know.

In my dream I swallowed a tiny metal rope.

Someone found it fifteen floors

below me, and that’s no miscalculation.

In 1979 we knew how to rise.

There was a man with a leather cap called

Mister Twenty-Fifth.

Some kind of captain, he shook aerosol

cans on the fire escape.

We ignored the fire alarm, and tornado

signals pulled us to swings

or the two chains that once held a swing.

Sky of grandmother’s worst

Sunday offering. Sky of textbook used

by my great-uncles, since

nothing here ever changed. I was a loop

and everyone else was, too.

We all laughed at the “historic low.”

My mother purchased all

of her purses in a motel room, a vinyl

orange clutch for me.

Once we saw the news anchor outside

in a silk hood-scarf,

then without the scarf and arms full.

When I moved out

I packed a west wall with my letters

and snapshots of the old

piano-tuner, his wife’s boiling pot,

my mother’s shoes

tipped over in the hall, what was left

of the willow tree

that some boys tried to strip one night.

Mister Twenty-Fifth

burned the ground by the east dumpsters

that next morning, dressed

in his most ragged velour, a fedora no

witness would see again.

Mary Biddinger is the author of the poetry collections Prairie Fever (Steel Toe Books, 2007), Saint Monica (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), O Holy Insurgency (Black Lawrence Press, 2012), and A Sunny Place with Adequate Water (Black Lawrence Press, 2014). She is also co-editor of The Monkey and the Wrench: Essays into Contemporary Poetics (U Akron Press, 2011). Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Barrelhouse, Bat City Review, Blackbird, Devil’s Lake, Forklift, Ohio, Gulf Coast, H_NGM_N, Pleiades, Redivider, and South Dakota Review, among others. She teaches literature and poetry writing at The University of Akron, where edits Barn Owl Review, the Akron Series in Poetry, and the Akron Series in Contemporary Poetics.


Richard Boada

Walking Backwards to the Tropics

He lies facedown on a white mattress,

a helix of stitching, jacquard and paisley,

with arms crisscrossed at the writs. His neck

is as tight as a military officer’s in a pressed

and buttoned shirt.  In the dream he does not write

to her. There’s petroleum on his tongue

possessing his language.  He negotiates terms,

conditions for surrender, and some things

important to them before. The colors in

his mind are lava, mint, and cadaver-skin

gray waiting for autopsy.  In the dream

he refuses her, but she’s a freighter

on an Andean highway twisting and

self-propelling toward the tropics.  

She’s a poet’s lyric stirring backwards

from the precipice, a crushed letter within

an envelope, a galaxy, a Bachata, and their bodies

were once continents scrambling against torsion.  


Cities of the Dead

Gall wasps sprout

on spongy wood.  

Their tiny carcasses

spread open against

pine grain, prisming

from the fires. A thrush swirls

thin limbs.  They feed here,

in the bog flax and sedges,

munching on larvae

and succulents.  Free  

from the darkness

in the morning spatters,

so many resist the torment.

Each lava rock, a votive

prodding the mausoleums

from extinction.

Richard Boada is the author of Archipelago Sinking (Finishing Line Press, 2011), which is nominated for the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Poetry Award.  He teaches creative writing, literature, composition, and environmental communications at Millsaps College. His poems have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, RHINO, Third Coast, Southern California Review and Rio Grande Review, among others.


Nicola Fucigna

Ceremonies for the Living

When the water is a glass of milk,

they depart as owls.

Those left heat the lead-came

of church windows, ease
the eyes and lips of their saints
out, to wear as pendants,
cool, sharp liquids, inching time.

When the water is a glass of wine,

they return the island.

Though they cannot de-crow

their faces, hide children’s
heights, remember whose eyes
belong to which saints,

they welcome the wolves, pack clay

over torn ears, split eyes, ask,
What battle did we win?

Nicola Fucigna is a recent graduate of the MFA program at the University of Arizona. Her work has appeared in Capitalism Nature Socialism, Camas: The Nature of the West, and The Nervous Breakdown, among others. She co-edits poetry for The Sonora Review.


Barb McMakin

New Pasture

I remember exactly

where I was
when you told
me that.

We were opening

the gate
from one field
into another.

Barb McMakin's work has been published in Kentucky Monthly Magazine, The Binnacle, Pegasus, and The Heartland Review.  Recent awards include an honorable mention from Writer's Digest intheir 7th Annual Poetry Awards and first place in WyoPoet's 2011 National Contest.  Barb serves as a board member for Green River Writers and the Kentucky State Poetry Society.  In 2010, Finishing Line Press published her first chapbook, Digging Bones.  Barb works for the Oldham County Public Library.


Ashley McWaters

It’s Always the Same Temperature in Hell*

It was curtains for us.

The sun had no idea
what to do. Hid us
all our vanities, made
mirrors of pavement
and brick. It was summer
always. Our present
was a mirage, the nothing
and nothing and nothing
we knew. Not blankets,
the hours linked us
to sky, the sky pinned us
to its eternal white.
They said about god
he was in us, so we
melted everything
there, watched it glow.
We even touched it
a little, then watched
the blisters bloom
like small mushrooms.
We were fertile,
had purged our metal.
The circles we moved
in were all wrong,
so we switched to squares,
then ovals. No matter.
It was summer in the middle
of the year, and after that
it was still summer.
Before every thought,
gusts of heat, and the
dissolution of all thoughts
brought more heat. We had
rain before, and grew
jungles into every window.
Now with no water,
the wide rattle of leaves
calls us out.  So here we are:
prepared,I guess, for this.

* Church marquee, Tuscaloosa Alabama, Summer 2011



At the end of a long night

I roamed the streets with Arlene.
We passed a dime store
where the plate glass
only reflected a shuddering
cloud and her gloves. I checked
the sky for rain. Where were we?

I could barely make us out.

We were all in black,
dressed for mourning.
It was a kind of camouflage.
We listened for evidence
of ourselves in the pavement,
and did not find it
until the sirens sounded.

Ashley McWaters’ work has appeared in DIAGRAM, Painted Bride Quarterly, Hunger Mountain, Northwest Review, Spinning Jenny, and Caketrain, among others. Her book of poetry, Whitework,  was published in fall 2009 by Fairy Tale Review Press. She teaches at the University of Alabama, where she coordinates the undergraduate creative writing program.


Kathleen Nalley

Inside Out

A sudden squawk of geese in the sky,

an iris phallus buds, and you pull weeds
from beds where pollen blankets
the emerging heads of red azaleas.

I tend the silence, slumped

over the keys of a computer make-shift
on the dining room table, delineating
the nature of self and will
for a paper I can’t quite write.

Thinking of Robert Hass, I imagine

California cottonwoods, Pacific salt
drying out the nose, knowing
articulation is remote, miles
the brain can’t comprehend,
like the number of dead from the war,
which happened around the same time
these walls around me were first raised,
and just this week were reinvented
with spackle and mud and coats
of paint the color of a chameleon

crouching on a leaf outside. And, outside,

your muscles bend and pull,
and the red-billed woodpecker
burrows out little holes
from the magnolia I can barely
comprehend from the kitchen window,
and there you are, armed with your hose,
making it rain.

Kathleen Nalley recently graduated from the Converse College low-residency MFA program. Her chapbook, Nesting Doll, received the S.C. Poetry Initiative Prize and will be published by Stepping Stones Press spring 2012. She currently serves as poetry editor of the new online literary journal, south85.


Bill Neumire

Wheatfield with Crows

Maybe we’re dying of choice

in this picture. I wake this way
at the window where crows
rattle gibberish about the insides of clouds,
& sleeping streetlights translate the essays
of the sun as it devours itself.
I wake thinking of you as an unrung
tower bell, of our life together
on an island with the last wild horses
& fish scattering tssks in the sea.
No one can survive the self,
which is why, like a crumpled black suitjacket,
the sky fumbles onto the wheat
that seethes around the field’s forked paths.
Outside the frame the river's name
means “a person who walks without spirit.”
Maybe the stars are to blame
for constellations. I can’t count the crows
because they become sleeves & pockets,
dark garland snug against the stars,
which aren’t here either. Remember our life
long ago? I was poor & so, when the jeweler
set the diamond into your ring, I flinched a little at the debt.
Your hands became semaphores that day
for a life of mine I didn’t own, & the birds
flew off like black minutes in the pauseless sky.

Bill Neumire writes and teaches in Syracuse, New York. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Burnt District, Prime Mincer, Laurel Review, and Saint Ann's Review. His first book, Estrus, should find a home soon. He also writes reviews of contemporary poetry for Fiddleback, Vallum (Canada), and Rattle.


Chris Santiago

Job, an Epilogue

The Lord blessed the last part of Job's life

even more than he had blessed the first...
he was the father of seven sons and three daughters...

            —Job 42:12-13

Minutes old, they cooled like loaves

clean and good-natured as people
without memory can be.
                                       (Nearby was the spot
where the first ten were buried.)

                                                   They lifted Job up,
his mind spun—these girls
were prettier than the others had been!
The boys had fine beards
and hoisted him off to his doubled wealth.
                                                                   His wife
curled into a corner, away from their cries
of mother. Cobwebs covered her shoulders
and still she would not come out.

In his sunlit garden Job

smiled and smiled. They brought
fresh kills and grandsons and tears
streamed down his face.

                                       In his daydreams he wrote
the childhoods of their phantom years;
when they were small
and climbed into his lap; their nightmares;

the times he’d hit them; the times

they’d touched each other
in the wrong places; how he lifted them
apart, bodies filling out with hair and muscle,

and gave them separate beds, separate

names, habits, and souls.


T'ang Anecdote with Extinct Americana

Apocryphal, probably—

Li Bai drunk

on some

swollen bank

to the current

giving lines he’s just crafted

and folded into cranes.

           A fabrication
of a plains poet, drunk too

but on the idea

that if he wanted he could invent

a whole corpus

at the river’s end the sky


like the emptiness above the Midwest

we can say Martha into.

No one

grieves for passenger pigeons;

the page

grows a little whiter.

Friend, if it’s true we’re made

not of atoms but stories

then let this be

a headwater

and fold me into syrinx.

Chris Santiago is a Provost’s Ph.D. Fellow at the University of Southern California and lives in Pasadena. His poems and book reviews have recently appeared in or are forthcoming from FIELD, Pleiades, Canteen, The Asian American Literary Review, and Cha: An Asian Literary Journal.


Michael Schmeltzer

Yours, Alex

Leaves discolor

because of what

trees are asked

to hold overnight:

tire swings, a braid of rope,

the dangling legs

of a girl.

What we tether ourselves to

shapes us. So it is

with the mother

who traces the loops

of her daughter’s handwriting,

no particular word

in the letter

any less wounding

to the mind

than the next,

all those nauseating circles–

the dizzying rings

of a tree cut down.

Michael Schmeltzer earned an MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. His honors include four Pushcart Prize nominations, the Gulf Stream Award for Poetry, Blue Earth Review’s Flash Fiction Prize, and the Artsmith Literary Award. Most recently he was a finalist in poetry contests through Third Coast Magazine and Water~Stone Review. He helps edit A River & Sound Review and has been published in Natural Bridge, Mid-American Review, Water~Stone Review, New York Quarterly, Bellingham Review, and Fourteen Hills, among others.


Natalie Shapero

Open Road

He said he was never not thinking of Vietnam—even in the course of acid

trips, he kept himself busy recalling,

                                                            the others all napping or shouting

 about the Hays Code and how early

movies couldn’t show anyone getting away with a crime. I don’t know

of many who have done wrong

                                                            and walked. Before I stumbled
 in solitude across the badlands,

my six-year-old neighbor took me aside to say WATCH OUT FOR INDIANS.

They used every part of the creature, as East Germans used every part

of the car, underside of the seats

                                                           hollow enough for a folded man,
hidden compartment for infants

pressed from a bassinet mold, I don’t know but                 I’ve been told

Natalie Shapero’s poetry has appeared recently in The Believer, Conduit, The New Republic, and elsewhere, and her book of poems is forthcoming from Saturnalia.


Gregory Sherl


The lock goes on the outside. The window doesn’t exist.

Boys are some motherfuckers. Teach her the subtleness
of never leaving the house, the necessity of cats.
How do we tell her that boys don’t purr
without a pointing cock without saying Boys don’t purr
without a pointing cock?
Pick out every boy worth fucking
& tell her what pulses inside them. Open a broken oven,
say This this this is what pulses inside them.
Plug the oven in & have her watch it still not work.
If she falls in love with a girl, throw a party. All of our hairs
can be short, our heritages secured in ourselves.
If I’m not around when she gets that look, make sure hers
isn’t for one who breathes over the page instead of into the bed.
What a waste. Tell her that jellyfish are everywhere & that whales
have legs. It’s okay that sometimes only sleeping makes sense.
She should know that sharks never think about us.
Tell her every John Cusack movie is based on a true story.
Highlight the lips of those who said I was the bravest man scared
of the dark. Tell her how I kept my masculinity
in a crowded basement.


Bridged Deer Crossing Before the Ice

Heart surgery goes scalpel & you,

angioplasties ballooned heart,
your tendoned thread count.
Do you still drip that way? I ask
because I’ve stopped adding myself
in multiples of medicine cabinets years ago.
I’ve stopped pretending to know shit
about growing flowers. Deer cross before
the bridge in yellow raincoats,
& ices always bridge first.
Thank you for warning me.
Monsters are filthy because under beds
are filthy. Fuck monsters.
We never let them out.
The moon looks so clean but who can stretch
that far to bleach it? I bet it’s lying.
The moon is a fucking liar.
That’s worth saying again: the moon
be a lying motherfucker, creeping out
in daylight, embarrassing the sun.
Do you know where we’re going?
The maps keep getting stuck to the kitchen
table & now we have nowhere to eat.
People die in daylight & that makes me nervous.
Hell, I bet people die in daylight
just as much as they die in nightlights.
In the north I could say people die in fireflies
because fireflies are nightlights
for Ohioans, for Virginians, for Otherans.
I never meant to make you feel less hilly.
I will never crawl you out of bed.
Go on, get hilly again, dress mountaintops
along your hips: your thigh-high heart,
looking at a woman with your hurts
makes me realize it is not yet dusk everywhere.
I’ve stopped worrying about breakfast.

Gregory Sherl has a written a few books you should buy. You can find more information about them here: He lives in Oxford, Mississippi, and thinks season eight of The X-Files is shit, but season seven was pretty boss. Season six and season five and every season before season five were pretty boss as well.


Jennifer Yeatts

The grace of midsummer

Past the calamity of tomatoes,

past loaves of golden wheat and rye.
Past the French apron and pastries
bleeding jam. Down the squares
of cement dancing with faceless bodies,
spindles of ourselves. Around the table
of a thousand fungi with names like dances—
chanterelle, crimini, morel—
bend to lift the basil and the mint.
Garlic scapes will coil around your wrists.
Beyond the man cupping sugarplums,
far as you can walk along the river,
little girls toss torn white bread to ducks.
Please don’t feed the ducks, says the sign.
Reach into your pocket for the change
you haven’t fed the meter. Place it on the table
with the berries. It is just enough.

A native of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Jennifer Yeatts completed her MFA at the University of Idaho in 2011. Her work has been published in the Rio Grande Review and Glass: A Journal of Poetry, among other journals. She currently writes from Traverse City, Michigan.