Sara McAulay

Mud Dog

Your DNA says Round ’em up. Your work: to find
what’s fled and bring it home. No sheep in sight
so you make do—herd pugs and beagles at the park.
Out on the bay, scattered ducks offend your sense
of order: strewn puzzle pieces, broken
things your blood is called to mend.

Low tide, windy winter morning. We’ve had our run—
you’ve gathered up some terriers, chased a ball. I’ve had
my hour to breathe-not-think. Today my mind’s a knot
that won’t let go: her mind untied, speech that darts
like startled birds, pan blazing on the burner yet again.
I’m out of Ativan.

Returning to the parking lot, tide channel on our left
a reeky thick dark soup of mud and cast-off tires.
Herons pose on long stick legs, long spear beaks poised,
alert for lunch. You’re at my side,
nose to the wind, then porpoise-plunging
downstream, belly-deep.

Sandpipers spiral, cast across the sun, drop down
to feed again. The heron lifts, its wing-strokes
deep as breaths, then settles too.
And you keep watch, tail so wet it barely wags.
Your work is done, the feathered sheep returned
to shore. Bounding from the channel

you give yourself a shake,
shower me with muck. You grin, teeth sharp
and white, nose streaked with who knows what.
Good boy. The leash snap clicks.
And we head home.


Sara McAulay is the author of 3 novels and numerous works of short fiction (Black Warrior Review, California Quarterly, The Literary Review, Mid-American Review, Third Coast, ZYZZYVA, among others). She is the recipient of an NEA Fellowship and a New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship in prose. After many years of not writing, she has turned to poetry and flash, with work published or forthcoming in Bending Genres, Hole in the Head Review, Rise Up Review, Synkroniciti, and others. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.