Bryce Swaim

two stray mutts


on seventh st

one lopes with a limp


we call him low-rider

he claws our alley home

more than the one without

gnaws hot water, meatloaf

leftovers left out and spoiling

impatient in summer

but then, winter and the waitress


two doors down. she serves

coffee that never pours cold

fingers slender as a potter’s

everyone’s favorite diner downtown.

my morning cup always arrives

filled to full, blonde and sweet

cream and sugar, I never need ask

She’ll be a good mom.


the waitress told me, one slow tuesday

how hers died. drowned

her liver in liquor. how

the whites of her eyes

faded yellow as dandelions

wilting late in september

the waitress inherited that house

two doors down, with the pomeranian

her mother kicked, again and again

bender bending into another

while she still had the strength


the waitress takes in low-rider

each year when autumn falls into winter

buys a down bed for his stink, washes him

with her own herbal shampoo and offers

bologna when he yaps at the closed door


until the street dog

sick of the incense

flowered wallpaper

and unconditional care

makes for the night again


she watches him lope low

toward that other stray—taboo

limpless and a cleft lip—

always looks a snarl

mean enough to prowl

sweet enough to polish

blood off low-rider’s chin

after every scrap


the waitress holds the pomeranian

under snow that falls like leaves of paper

turning toward stillness. she watches

old boy, snout down at taboo’s heels

away from her porch, she watches him

brindle into moonlight and gravel.


 

Bryce Swaim is a student in Western Colorado University’s MFA program with an emphasis in Nature Writing. He lives in Gunnison, CO and spends his time hiking through the surrounding mountains in the summer and playing in snow in the winter. His poetry aims to contemplate our role on this planet, usually through the lens of characters. He grew up in Houston, Texas.