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  brad watson: Water Dog God

When they poke their snouts out of the thicket, these strays, they believe they've found some kind of dog Shangri La, love dogs lying all over the yard but only a couple not too lazy to get up, go over and bare their teeth.

These wooded canyons wherein lakes lie like mudbrown drainage pools, gurgling off into the sloping rock of the creekbed below the spillway, somewhere back into the ground itself, into the rock. We are surrounded by natural walls. Even so, back in November the twister slipped down the hill east of the house and laid down a thicket of oak, pecan, and hickory. Shrubs shot out over the lake in a leafy barrage. And in the quiet, wet wreckage after, several new stray dogs crept into the yard, and upon their heels little Maeve.

There's something about a dog not wanting to go back up a hill once he's gone down it, there's none of the abstract ambition. They go with the flow. I think sometimes, too, there is something their bones are tuned to that here, like a voice or a music only they can hear, like the whistle only they can hear, or words of some language ordinary humans have not known since before speech, the language that maybe came from Moses' burning bush, which only Moses could hear. I think sometimes I've heard it when I wake up all of a sudden at dawn, something in the green, smoky air. God knows what Maeve heard, maybe followed that chugging wind engine through the hollow, maybe it sucked her out of a ditch besides her house, maybe it blew the house apart and she saw the sky for the first time in years and simply followed it.

Understand, we are in a wooded ravine, a gash in the earth bandaged with a canopy of heavy boughs you'd liken to a South American jungle's, and it fairly pulses with a life that's nearly underground and green, the cicadas that can live both beneath the earth and above it as invisible shrill and deafening sirens. The big hammerhead woodpeckers swoop through liquid lanes between boughs and affix to bug-infested trunks and then call to one another in their loud and joyous cah-cah-cahs like jungle birds. Hoot owls call softly during the day, and the screech owls rip the night into momentary, luminous halves, and the coons and mink slip along low trails where armadillos root in rotten fallen trunks of trees that crumbled within their own richness before reaching half their potential size. That is my point. It is too rich down here, like the rain forest. It almost seems sometimes we are underground, but just above the lake is a little block of bright sky, all else a canopy of backlit boughs. A weaker light percolates through the leaves, the porous and infinite edges of heaven.

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Copyright © 1997 Brad Watson.

Photo of Brad Watson copyright © Rickey Yanaura.