David Shook grew up in Mexico City before studying endangered languages in Oklahoma and poetry at Oxford. He has translated Roberto Bolaño’s Infrarealist manifesto, indigenous Mexican poetry from the Isthmus Zapotec, and oral poetry by the Burundian Batwa. He served as Translator in Residence at Britain’s Poetry Parnassus at The Southbank, in 2012. His first collection is Our Obsidian Tongues, recently launched by Eyewear Press
They loiter like teenagers with time to kill before curfew. Every chilango dog
the same, they inspect the sidewalk for dropped pork skin, lime rinds—here a slow dog
is a thin one. With corporate sponsorship and a haircut I could host The World’s Ugliest
Dog Pageant—two-to-one odds on the ochre pooch at the bus stop. A real show dog,
her lipstick nipples hanging from sucked-empty sacks. Runner-up might go to
the chihuahua mix with hail damage and no insurance. And so dog
after dog they parade the sidewalk. The ribskinny pit with premature mange
and the three-legged shepherd mutt will fight for third, after the break. No dog
will win Congeniality, they’re all bitches here. They represent adjectives instead of
states: Misses Neck-Nipping, Snarling, Teethless, Maybe Rabid—whoa, dog—
The pit beats tripod to a dropped tortilla, cares more about dinner than
the contents of the winner’s envelope. Listen, quid pro quo, dog,
you wanna win? David’s the same as you. He spends his day loitering online,
scribbling poems. Forget world peace—money is the way to go, dog.
Nominated by Wasafiri for the 2012 Forward Prize, originally published in Wasafiri 67.
The North Wind Whips
The north wind whips through,
in the streets papers and leaves
are chased with resentment.
dogs curl into balls.
There is something in
the afternoon’s finger,
a catfish spine,
a rusty nail.
smoked cigarettes in heaven,
left it overcast, listless.
Here, at ground level, no one could
take their shadow for a walk,
sheltered in their houses, people
are surprised to discover their misery.
Someone didn’t show,
their host was insulted.
Today the world
agreed to open her thighs,
suddenly the village comprehends
that it is sometimes necessary to close their doors.
Who can divine
why I meditate on this afternoon?
Why is it birthed in me
to knife the heart
of who uncovered the mouth
of the now whipping wind,
to jam corncobs in the nose
of the ghost that pants outside?
The trees roar with laughter,
they split their sides,
that you haven’t arrived at your appointment.
Now bring me
that you find in the trees,
so I can tell them
if the devil’s eyelashes are curled.
First published in Poetry in April 2009.