Phil Kills the Neighbor’s Dog on Easter Sunday

by Kevin Cutrer

If he had been a better shot
it would have died there in my yard.
Long after, all I heard was ringing.

Our neighbor found it a quarter mile
out in the woods surrounding our homes,
under a blooming dogwood tree.

They say the cross was carved from dogwood.
They say that after Christ was killed
blood dripped and stained the soft white flower.

Our neighbor didn’t pick a fight
with Phil, just wept and shook his head.
Just shook his head and walked away.

Phil’s wife had left him, took his son.
He’d missed a month of child support.
But that ain’t why. There ain’t no why.

He up and grabbed his 12-gauge, propped
the barrel on the porch rail, squinted,
squeezed the trigger, just like that,

with everyone we know inside,
our friends all firemen, deacons, doctors
all waiting for meat, hearing the blast,

and there I was, gripping the spatula,
our burgers burning on the grill.
All I could think was What in Hell.

Right then I knew I’d hear that squeal,
that my ears would ring until I died,
but somehow I would have to love,

to go on loving Phil, my own blood,
my drunk and stupid, ugly-hearted,
dog murdering and only brother.

There wasn’t any call for it,
but there it was. You can’t pretend
it hadn’t happened when you’d seen it.

Forgiveness is a lie we tell.
Sometimes there ain’t no other way
to live, but live by lies we tell.

After what he’d done, what to do?
The men, we just stood around and spit.
The women tore him up like wolves.

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