top of page

The Dog's Letter

Timothy Ashley Leo

The door, the white door, all the doors. To the small range of wavelengths called the visible world. We’ve attached names. So I could speak to you. Now something in the middle has come apart. The word “I” sits on my shoulders. Ready for [flesh].


Rosmarie Waldrop

 [ I ] 


“I am no who-am,”  Maya says

as she slips into her skin.  “I

am a rosebud growing firm,

I am a smile become a grin,

a mind with no outside, no


in. I loved the hymn of him

I knew, then fled to the second,

the third, the person who promised

my past could be repeated without me

in it. I sank my tooth into my tongue


and tasting copper pennies pushed 

past the barricade to take the coin

from my eye to place it on the track”

— stand back — “let the freight train

pass to spare the conductor the sound


of passing through a body” in exchange:

“a shining shield a fine medallion

every etching print and face blurred

into a blissed and whorled edge fine

enough to sharpen, would there were


a whetstone, would there were a drop

of honing oil. But no. I have a hammer 

and with it this blue nail, strong enough

to pierce the copper, hard enough to

cut a hole. I thread through it


the locks of hair you left me in a braid,

make of this flattened penny a pendant.”






Maya opens a door in the morning. She

closes the same door, tired of medics

saying her name. They intimate, weigh,

they dizzy the day making similes seem


a little useless, their eyes out seeking

some kind of agreement. Sparks don’t

fly for them when she likens water to

ice and glaciers to selfhood and time


to patience and patience to giftwrapping

books about mountaintop funerals with

pale tissue paper for her little sister. 

Tessa. The rainy season brings articles,


mostly the and a, pressing breath from tip

to tongue revealing next to nothing each

word they kiss and tell. Maya practices

with her plurals, watching genders


stream by the window with the country-

side, her legs bent for days, evenings,

months counting sentries on the road 

to the hospital.



she mouths, fogging the pane

without lifting a finger. “This property is

not for sale.”  “This house is not for sale.”

“This land is not for sale and”  “I am not”




            THE RIVERBED


Bound to and by this earth, 

I am not meant for your heavens. 

Where I walk bends back, 


where I leap I land 

with seeds and bells burrowed 

beneath me. I saw an oriole by the meadow, 


lady slippers circling the pond, 

a touch of oxidized avocado 

on the picnic table, and I found gauze


in the glove box looking for your keys.

Scanning through the radio, I’m

becoming one who needs constant


baptism—termination, she says,

that’s the goal of our relationship.

Your wings are only so big. Who


is taken under whose. Two times

entangled in twine, I’m so sorry I

was my mother’s mouth-piece


there in the desert. I want to last;

want my bones to feel the archaeologist’s

brush. I want to keep your lambs


with my sheep and bring the sheepdog

dinner. I want to shift with the sea,

moved by moon and moment, I


must be of two minds because I am

who I am and I’m always of five.

You listened to an interview, said


I was listening to my soul. A tin cup

at the bottom of a well?  No, today

it’s silent. More moth-like—more leaf


-like? No—a ringtone, then a summer.

Somaticizing my time. Me, I

do better in winter, when my word


is good for something. Me, I

want to live in the river

and sleep beneath this lotus.





Let my child who needs to fall

fall free. We will fall with her

poised gently here holding roof 

with feet, ledge with thumbpads,


fingertips, air of an August

city night lifting up

beneath our palms. We will

stall her one-way flight,


the falcon with a dive will

clear the way and leave behind

a halo and a plume. We won’t

imagine the pain she will


and the hurt we’ll live without

while we know she must flee

now. We are all letting go

the we who walked to the stairwell


and up it with the elevator down

for repairs. My youngest was held

sleeping on my shoulder; I watched

her eyes close with long lashes.


The middle one held his console,

and the gathered witnesses swayed

on the rooftop. Some lit cigarettes,

some held their breath, still others


swallowed, monk-like murmured,

while a thief led us in prayer. Their

sister, my daughter, and every

window stared in morning as in


night, no flicker or glint without

fog, one overhead flight with red

and green on the wing, grounded

by sundown in another time zone,


another day. Weight shifting right

to left, left to her, her balance

depended on the lot of us keeping

safe distance, the strength in her


legs and eyes turned toward the city.

I offer a hand she takes, squeezes,

lets go, with next step, with listen,

with louder, with rush of, our breaths


out, and silent, our family turns in.

I move last from the ledge

drawing my palms across the white

concrete, once rough, now smooth.


Timothy Ashley Leo is an editor for DIALOGIST. His work appears in Annulet, Conjunctions, Guesthouse, Lana Turner, Narrative Magazine, and elsewhere. He lives in Chicago.

bottom of page