“So God Will Know You” by Brendan Constantine

Brendan Constantine


after Miroslav Valek

Go out, get us some money
and kill a dog. Take this coat,
this book of matches, a knife
from the wall to kill a dog
on the way. You need medicine;
if not now, you will—aspirin,
quinine, a packet of God.
These things are still strong
enough to heal the country
and kill a dog. Sulfur traps
in their intestines, from fruit,
toad stools; any limb off
a chocolate rabbit is death,
as it happens. This happens,
we spread a newspaper, cut
an onion, wait with each other.
You kill a dog; a shepherd, a bull,
a fool hound. Tell whoever
complains the dog has killed
your dog first, your older dog.
They won’t persist. The earth
is fed on the incorrigible. People
here worship this about the land;
that it is made rich by eating
thieves: the rabbit, the crow,
the pale gopher. Thus and so
we light a fire in a fireplace
and read half our book. Or sleep
in our beds and wake standing
by the window. If we call out,
the dogs inside us run away,
then creep back. They can
never come under our hands,
their softnesses. You must
keep the right things with you,
the family spoons, good spoons
to trade, to dig, to attract a dog.
You must expect to lose these
or not get enough for them. Have
some tea or ginger in your pocket
to offer the hermit, the widow
who takes you in against night,
the wild boy-man who thinks
he must be alone. Have a way
to mention us so they know
you cannot linger. At dawn
come home with money;
on the way, kill a dog.

from Rattle #35, Summer 2011

[download audio]


Brendan Constantine: “I grew up in a house where poetry was a tradition, something read at bedtime, something framed on the wall. I was such a part of my environment I didn’t notice it until I was 27. I was sitting in a cafe in London and I began to write on a napkin. The next day I bought a notebook.” (website)

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