The spot just behind his left ear
had softened to a red tenderness
amid gray hairs stuck with burrs and snot.
Aunt Mim's old hound,
something between Labrador and Schnauzer,
ambled past my grandmother's porch
to curl up and have a good scratch.
Cursed, it seemed, by an angry god,
he felt compelled to dig
in that particular twitching cartilage left of center,
behind his balding crown,
an instinctive obsession.
No other place on his flea-bitten body
called like this, a hit for a crack-house junkie,
a gold vein deeper than Solomon's mines.
In his doggie way he told me,
looking up between rubbings
of fierce sandpaper rawness:
You, too, will do this, always return
to the same spot: sex, the French horn,
muscles, liquor, words. Ride it
with all that's in you, let your eyes
stare beyond the infinitesimal point
of pain while you seize in fits
until you bleed.
Then, wander past P.S. 164 to bark
at children flinging backpacks,
or to the empty lot by Dibley's Used Tires,
and lay down your tired body
to scratch some more. Reject exorcism.
Walk with the possessed. Excavate
that one small patch of desire
and dread, beyond temperance,
beyond logic, right to your last dogged breath,
until you become one with some useless
parcel of cemetery soil under a live oak
laden with strands of healing moss.