My Collar, My Bone

behind my rib cage is a dog
with her head sticking out of a car window.
depends on the day if there is also wind.
if we end up in the vet’s
office or an ocean of grass.

I can’t ask my heart if she is a good girl
because she is not really a dog. instead
I can know this command: heal.
you are at this moment
as new as you are old.

people don’t know about how I lick
“1, 2, 7, 5, 6, 6, 26” over and over
under my breath to make me feel
like a human who knows control
is an illusion. Just some bones

I buried, here: the memory of me
telling my most recent lover I loved them
too early and eagerly; wanting
still the scent of my ex-girlfriend’s
shampoo, sniffing it out
in some stranger’s hair, that subtle
heartbreak; lack of canine loyalty.

maybe it is cruel but it is true
that I sometimes expect the worst
from my lover because of what old
lovers once did, what I once did
in the name of my selfish, sardine heart.
aren’t we all leashed to some rail?

knowing no sense of time, I will look forever
through my dog-eared dictionary to find out if
people know “nostalgia feeling like dirt
under the fingernails” as one single word.

About Sally J. Johnson

Sally J. Johnson’s poetry and nonfiction have appeared or are forthcoming in the Collagist, Bodega, Weave, and Everyday Genius. Her essay, “Teach My Body How To Behave” was a finalist for the Redivder Beacon Street Prize. She can also be found on Twitter and Tumblr.

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