Hang It All, Robert Browning!

for my mother on her birthday

In Illinois he was standing by the side of the road when they picked him up.

“Where you headed, son?”

“Naxos, sir, it’s just t’other side of the Indiana line.”

“Well, we’re headed that way, we can give you a lift mosta the way, if you don’t mind ridin’ in the back with the dogs.”

“No, sir, I don’t mind. I like dogs alright.”

And he climbed on in and they headed southeast, the setting sun more or less behind them. It was a dry late autumn day, after the fields had all been mown and the grass had scorched. The dog came and put its great head on his lap. It was a huge sort of dog, black and white, with a mastiff’s deep chest and muscular head. He leaned over and tapped on the window. “What’s your dog’s name?”


They stopped around dark on a long stretch of abandoned road and turned out the lights. “This is as far as you go, son. Out you get.” They were standing by the bed of the truck, and their teeth were white and shining in the half moonlight. “Come on now.”

Far off in the distance a cat coughed, deep throated and wild, and the dog growled low in his chest.