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Regenerative

Ken Babstock
That dog padded home wearing a rip 
in his back, clicked onto the kitchen linoleum 
with a five-inch smile down his saddling spine.

Where pebbles and dark grit stuck to the wound's 
lips, vertebrae like molars grinned through 
in an anemic bluish white. The dumb grey

meat of his tongue like a sodden flag waiting 
for breeze in the post-storm still of that house--
how he lashed the plucked chicken length of it,

then lapped at the seepage that hung from black 
flews. He turned, and turned, and in turning sparks 
of shock shot from his eyes as his chances of seeing

pain dimmed, coiled to a brute whine in his chest, I 
pictured a bald nest of lab mice pulsing in there 
crying its cancer away; pictured a shed door, askew

on its hinges, mowing thick weeds as it swung; even 
pictured a field in that dog, where choirs of crickets 
sawed through the night with the ache in their legs.

I could smell the top-heavy cattails' thinning brown 
felt as it burst, breathing commas on parachutes 
into the world; heard the travelling s's of garter snakes

playing wet grass blades with cadmium scales as 
they passed through invisible shivers. A lost leather 
sneaker shone near a stump, like a child's plug-in

night-light, or a chipped-off sample of moon. Blue 
shell casings coughed funnelled web from the throats 
where their packed shot had been, and bleached-out

pages of porn doubled as mainsails, fitted to masts
of wild rose. Dew, meltwater cold, slid down my calves 
like wet wrists unburdening jewels in my boots. Then no one 

I knew approached through the dark, swinging a carved 
column of light, prodding the bramble and weeds with 
his staff that worked like a blind man's stick in reverse.

The mauve starbursts of thistles passed through it, casting 
peaked shadows like crowns. Bugs strafed the beam, reared
from the black, threading it again, and again. He didn't 

call out or raise his free hand or even target his lamp
on my head, just kept cresting the weeds with the twin 
brows of his knees while scanning the foreground

for snags. Whether it was that he couldn't imagine me 
there, and therefore I wasn't, or that my body actually 
weighed in at nothing, doused as it was in that field's

feral moulting, bucking, breathing--its bull-stubborn 
morphing of intrauterine moments--I couldn't decide.
There wasn't time. He passed on the left, dragged by

this light as if some shadowy leashed mastiff tractored
him on, plunging through weed. Solid black silhouette, receding, 
until distance undermined outline, form bled into field.

Reprinted from Days into Flatspin with the permission of House of Anansi Press. Copyright © 2001 by Ken Babstock. All rights reserved.

Reprinted from Days into Flatspin with the permission of House of Anansi Press. Copyright © 2001 by Ken Babstock. All rights reserved.

Ken Babstock