Was the death of a pet your first memento mori?
Or, if not a pet, some working beast you cherished?
Let me swell the dead dog corpus by one story.
My family’s dogs were cursed. One by one they perished,
run down by a redneck, backed over by mates,
put to sleep for nipping. Three heelers died of thirst
running circles on the gibber after taking dingo baits.
But the only one I saw dead was the first.
I am seven. I find her in the bean patch before school.
She chewed off teats to get at the biting thing within.
Died with spine kinked, teeth bared. Snails drool
their silver over black lips, silver her torn belly skin.
Silvered my cheeks when in Show and Tell I can’t show
my classmates how near the baits lie, or tell
if our mothers can save us. Even now I don’t know
how to get at it. My tongue just goes dry in its shell.
First published in Quadrant, Vol. 59 No. 5, June 2015
Image: Detail from Adam Browne drawing