Published on Academy of American Poets (

I hear a dog who is always in my death

How is it you bring me back to the cliffs   the bright heads of eagles   the vessels of grief in the soil?   I dig for you with a gentle bit of lighter fluid and three miniature rakes   burning only a single speck of dirt to touch a twig as tiny as a neuron   or even smaller   one magic synapse inside the terminus limbs of your breath

The fighter jets fly over the house every hour   no sound but inside our hands   I hear a far chime and I am cold a north wind and the grit of night   first the murmur then the corpse   first the paddling then the banquet   first the muzzle then the hanging   the plea   first the break then the tap the tap   I hear your skin   the reach of your arms   the slick along your thighs   more floorboard than step   first the flannel then the gag   first the bells   then the exhale

I hear a dog who is always in my death   the breath of a mother who holds a gun   a pillow in the shape of a heart   first the planes then the criminal ponds   first the ghost boats then the trains   first the gates then the bargain   a child formed from my fingertip and the eye of my grandmother’s mother   a child born at 90   the rise and rush of air   a child who walks from the gas


Copyright © 2019 by Samuel Ace. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 10, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I wrote this poem one morning feeling the closeness of death, the remoteness of the dead, and the persistent rise and reprise of fascism. I yearned to speak to relatives I never knew, like my great-grandmother, who, as a Jew, was murdered in Europe during World War II. I also long to know my mother and father again in their new incarnations. Maybe I actually do know them all and am only vaguely aware they live close by, perhaps just down the block. Poems are a communication far beyond the words they are made of—a dog’s language, a future, or a shovel digging toward those who have just gone, or are long gone, or are simply the breath of a spirit who is knocking on the door and wants to come inside, sit for a minute, drink a cup of coffee, and tell us where they've been.”
Samuel Ace


Samuel Ace

Samuel Ace is the author of several books, including Our Weather Our Sea, forthcoming from Black Radish Books in 2019, and the reissued Meet Me There: Normal Sex & Home in three days. Don’t wash., forthcoming from Belladonna* in spring 2019.

Date Published: 2019-01-10

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