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The docent says to me, “see his tail?
see his claws and jaws? see his ears?”
Those were always the first thing to go
when they came at it with their saltpick
and their steaming mason jars. This one
is whole and dare-I-say factory-original.
Mine-pure and un-chiseled like an underground
no one can pass through, dark with no tunnels.

I’m stalked by the Pickling Dogs, those
salt sculptures from an earlier time.
Through the museum hallways,
their heads (sometimes removed & always jagged)
are lined up in glass cases on red felt.

Or at the highway antique store between distant towns,
in the display case under the register. Lotta
zeroes in antique-store script on that little white
tag leashed with little white thread around its neck.

My grandmother’s things include
a massacre of pickling dogs
only the legs or arms, here an ear
there some cruel bastard has drilled a pouch
into its stomach and taken off its head

And the family asks me, why don’t you want
the pickling dog collection? Why don’t
you want a pickling dog of your own?
Because I have a very small home and because
I think they are alive in those bodies,
excited to live in our home and make it theirs
not be boxed up in my only closet.

I saw a museum in Italy that claimed
the sculptor saw the god in the marble
and released him. In their basement, a lone
pickling dog, the first they claimed—
Cane Sott’aceto—half a century old.
His eyes looked so sad, waterless tears,
miserable to be released from his swarm
where there was no distance between bodies.

He came from a salt mine that used to be solid
all the way through, until the minerals were removed,
the passageways that are their own harvest.
You can be a tourist in the memories of that place too.

Which explains why I saw one frolicking once.
Knowing that after the waiting, the pain, the waiting,
(the use, the use is key, I explain to my aunts and sister)
the pouring down the drain or in the yard
they would get to go home. Not the home in the rock
but still to swirl, formless against each other,
in the brine of the sea while we forget them.

Amelia Gorman spends her free time exploring forests and fostering dogs. Read her fiction in Nightscript Volume 6 and Cellar Door. Read her poetry in Dreams & Nightmares and Vastarien. Her chapbook, the Elgin-winning Field Guide to Invasive Species of Minnesota, is available from Interstellar Flight Press. Her microchapbook, The Worm Sonnets, is available from The Quarter Press.
Current Issue
17 Jun 2024

To fly is to deny death / as the body’s natural state
scrawled in the ashes of who I might have been
Ellie Mathieu can tell when the Big Easy arrives by the smell of its engine.
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By: Ana Hurtado
Art by: delila
Issue 8 Apr 2024
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