Columbus, Georgia
Before it begins, the dogs next door
(two labs, one small hound) 
know what’s coming, so warm their voices
with short runs, quick licks of howl 
that overlap the voice whose boredom carries
out to the frayed edges of town
a warning for the testing of
the Emergency Warning System. 
Each week, same hour, we’re asked 
to listen
and to disregard.

But when the siren’s long blue leash unrolls, 
it tightens the throat’s longing and
makes things dream-slow. 
It finds the yard 
like a shaft of sun – a complicated unity
the dogs rush in to meet
in unison, their howls 
more in tune with this ordinary noon
than the wolfish moon of their forefathers.

All week I hear them cough away their song. 
One could think commotion made them happiest. 
(It’s possible.)

But Saturdays I know them 
by their hymn—that opening 
in the atmosphere
I step more slowly through. 
No emergency. Just sinking in
to softer, muddier ground 
as though I’ve rejoined myself
on the long walk I forgot I’m on
where it’s always almost dark, never quite, 
and home is off its leash 
but down the hill somewhere – 
should hear me if I call.
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