By the Dog

Long before you ever dream of dying,
a stranger will couch in your shadow at night,
slender as the ka that slips through painted doorways,
blacker than silt-tide, a featherweight click of claws,
turning from linen the basalt faces of kings.
This is his incantation: that he preserve you
as tenderly as his resin-skinned charges,
mindful of your breath as of a feather’s
lilt and fall, that he pace your footsteps
more closely than any hunter of the sands,
sentinel of the westerly, revivifying eye.
And that he come when you call
in nightmare or delight, a lean flank
warm against yours, a sleek head urging
into the palm of your hand, papyrus-fanned
with bird-tracks and moon-faces
he will not foretell for you; he walks here
not as your end, but as your present,
an amulet I place around your neck,
an earring, an armlet, the seal on a door.
He stands on both sides. He will not let you pass.

Sonya Taaffe has a confirmed addiction to myth, folklore, and dead languages. Poems and short stories of hers have won the Rhysling Award, been shortlisted for the SLF Fountain Award and the Dwarf Stars Award, and been reprinted in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, The Alchemy of Stars: Rhysling Award Winners Showcase, The Best of Not One of Us, and Trochu divné kusy 3. A selection of her work can be found in Postcards from the Province of Hyphens and Singing Innocence and Experience (Prime Books). She holds master’s degrees in Classics from Brandeis and Yale and once named a Kuiper belt object.


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