The Territorial Basset
I told the vet Oliver was pushy,
that he would nip at my mother's heels
as she walked past him on his L.L. Bean
bag in the corner of the room, a feel,
my mother said, like stepping on a cone
a long-leaf pine dropped on a snake-like bone.
Dr. Neal winced, adjusted his spectacles:
"I have three Pembroke Welsh Corgis and when
I walk them by a certain stout lady
on my block all three at once smell her thin
ankles and she, of course, is real startled
to sense the sound of teeth through her stockings."
I looked at Nin as if my eyes were rocks.
She knew we made a mistake by being
in those stuffy chairs. I felt like a horned lark
lost from its mate, alone in sun shining
in wayward wind with only a sunset
near to lower color to horizon;
yet I knew I had to thank him: he looked
out the window of his veterinary
there along Midland Road, Southern Pines: "Look,"
he said, "it's funny that a basset scares
anyone, for slower than molasses
they are in driveways and roads for passing
cars to screech and blow horns and halt to keep
from running over them like rugs." I rose
from my seat, took Nin's hand in mine, as if
to say, We all need a good, solid dose
of bourbon or moonshine to quell the faint
light which comes under our shuffling feet.
Shelby Stephenson is author of Slavery and Freedom on Paul’s Hill (Press 53, 2019).