Before a fight, with a lock-back Buck knife,
he whittled the throat of a hatchet handle down,
and when one dog, whipped and knowing it,
tried to jerk free, my father rushed into that snarling jag
to wedge the handle in and pry loose the winner’s jaw.
In one faceless photo, he straddles
a brindled male, stills it for the camera.
You see only his blue jeans and one big hand –
tanned dark from framing houses –
holding the dog’s muscled chest.
In our yard, the fight lasted as long as it had to,
no money on it, no audience
but my uncles and me siccing the dogs on.
Me, an eight-year-old veteran, still cringing
when the hatchet handle snapped the winner’s teeth.