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Loose Dogs

Loja, Ecuador

The dogs are loose as
tongues, slinking along the edge of houses, down
the sidewalks, into the park’s hedges where they
piss their rumors, tail-high.
The dogs
wail at the tuneful song the propane trucks play,
selling gas like ice cream along the streets. The dogs
bark, sometimes, wagging, message mutt-mixed.
They lie,
gold and brown and black, lumps in grass, un-leashed, rub
their backs into some scent beyond my grasp, attached
only to their urge to loll. They can do without my business
of petting.
The dogs wander
the street market stands, sniff at eggs and cheese, press
along with crowds, dodging shopping baskets drooping
with potatoes, carrots, beans, bananas, limes,
plastic bags of milk, blood-sharp bones of pork. They
don’t mistake the naranjilla—escaped from its vendor, rolling—
for a ball to chase.
A little dog on the park path,
matted yellow fur, frazzled tail, gets caught up in
my current, floats along beside, in front, behind me,
a glance now and then my way. And when I cross
a car-horned street, she crosses too. And another. To the
shopping plaza, past the beauty parlor, to the glass doors
of the supermarket, which close their eyes as I enter, leaving
her behind.
In the mornings, the gates of houses open, and dogs,
not loose, turn loose, join every dog
finding the bins of garbage, pulling
at plastic sacks and tearing open
all the waste.



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