The Cattle Dog

four-months in this world & puppy-footed
goes scavenging the backyard for death

skunks the leaf rot, the mulchy bed
of dog shit & rocks beneath a crackling

ice sheet, finds a cadaveric
mouse, its jaw skeletal through stiff-

crack of face, its brain a hard, brown berry
in its broken case

& when I think the death-seeker
of this too-young pup is chewing

on a bulbous wilt of pumpkin flower,
blanched & swollen in the winter freeze

I see she’s exhumed the honey
comb of mouse legs, crisp of curling

tail—O foolish love, I would rid us
of this world’s disease & burrow with you,

I would nudge the monstrous creature
awake & slurry the thaw

til a shovel tears from us
our prize.

Jennifer Givhan grew up in Southern California’s Imperial Valley. She received an MFA from Warren Wilson College and an MA in English literature from California State University–Fullerton. She is the author of Belly to the Brutal (Wesleyan University Press, 2022); Protection Spell (University of Arkansas Press, 2017), selected by Billy Collins for inclusion in the Miller Williams Series; and Landscape with Headless Mama (Louisiana State University Press, 2016), winner of the 2015 Pleiades Editors’ Prize.

Givhan has received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a PEN/Rosenthal Emerging Voices fellowship. She currently serves as the poetry editor of Tinderbox Poetry Journal and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.