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The 2River View 15.2 (Winter 2011)

Greg Nicholl

How Quickly It Is Done

It is a ditch,
a dead end of broken cane
and thistle
where a boy pokes a dog with a stick
its nose covered in flies.

Its neck stiff.
The body still pliable.

He knows its name,
has seen his brothers smear blackberries
into the white fur.

He is a boy.
The dog is nothing more than dead.

Seven cigarette butts
litter the ground, one lined with lipstick,
beer bottle caps and matches.

He wonders how it died:
the gash above the eye, wound below the ribs,
each a sign.

It is nothing more than dead.

At dinner he watched his father
remove the spine of a fish,
each delicate bone intact.

A simple act.
Lifted. Transferred to a plate
then taken away.

The way a hand comes down,
sudden. How quickly
it is done.

And when he slipped beneath the bath
he held his breath,
watched light through water and knew
the way we see things
before we die .

Greg Nicholl is an assistant editor at the Johns Hopkins University Press. His poetry has appeared in Arts & Letters, Crab Creek Review, Harpur Palate, Natural Bridge, and elsewhere. website