As a forecast meteorologist, Eric Woodgates has spent the last twenty years traveling the globe, wintering over in Antarctica, providing relief for refugees in Rwanda and Somalia, and studying biometeorology in Costa Rica. He now lives in San Diego with his wife and two border collies. His poetry has appeared at Suite101.com, and City Works, an anthology of San Diego Poets. He was recently selected to appear on LitNet Audio Books' Best of the Best: San Diego Poets 2000. He is currently working on an audio collection of his poetry.
Finding the stray, chin cinched up against the stars,
hind paws toeing gravel below West Lafayette,
might have been an omen, the rictus grin toward heaven,
but I was dumb with alcohol and only marveled at the corpse:
copper colored parchment covering ribs, appendages.
I cut my hair and shipped out three days later.
The dog has shown itself many times
curled beside caravan routes and empty village wells,
folded over the edge of lime-layered pits,
its skin, the baked hectares stretched along empty canals,
burial masks shaped with sockets popped by draught.
Whiskey, some have told me since, tricked my eyes; sobriety
doesn't come quick because you happen on a crucified dog.
City life finally whacks me:
the appalling, crew-cut lawn,
the trip and swish of sprinklers chanting
cut feed water, cut feed water.
My dogs feel it too.
They have always known
the bougainvillea stinks,
the clever turn of path lights
etches a flawed geometry.
So, we are determined to reform
our urban lot, return nursery shrub
to the totems of oak and thorny scrub
once pinned across this mesa,
and when the city council
attempts its cease and desist,
the dogs will curl lip,
defend the front door stoop
as if brick were the rip cut planks
of a dissident Montana verandah.
Environmentalists at Leisure
It was to be a two-day trek
through Tsavo and Amboseli,
flat, chestnut fans of savanna
alive with wildebeest and elephant,
the sky brushed in vulture wings,
pawed scavengers attending
the lion's discards. We gorged
on each other's pats and praises,
viewfinders fattened by our
endowment: the Serengeti
swelled with animals again.
With darkness stalking the Rover,
our guide repeated a warning
to remain close during photo ops,
but we didn't listen. We followed
resolute eyes hovering in the bush,
unflinching in the camera's brief
flashing away of night,
and just before the lions leapt,
and ripped into our throats,
we caught the sarcastic yodel of hyenas
ridiculing our clawless arrogance
and heard the soft crackle of feathers
sweep low overhead.
the high branches,
he kept a home.
Until, at least,
the last piece,
ripe and within reach,
His whereabouts now?
This trail of molt
I caution you,
he has likely burrowed deep.
Cooked According to Temperature
a single coffee mug,
sugar, powdered creamer,
camouflaged by white Formica,
fifty packets of soy sauce maybe,
if separated from the ketchup.
Your co-worker eats a salad
drenched in Catalina dressing,
shows you pictures
from the book of dogs
in human clothes.
A fragment of carrot
pasted to her smile,
she turns the page
and offers a canine
in plumber's gear,
fixing a leaky faucet.
It is like this everyday,
the slow roast.
And you eventually grasp
how a meat thermometer,
the only utensil in the drawer,
could come to exist
inexplicably in an office lounge.