Rick Viar

He still feels her fingers tracing soft figure eights
across his short black and white fur.
Hummed above the newscast yowl, Umpqua

froths his blood with moonlight until he races
warriors again through snowy, elk-haunted timber.  
The Coquilles once mounted blueschist adze  

atop wooden handles for carving canoes: the stone
is not harder than his calm after the gunman
orders her off her wheelchair onto a classroom floor,  

shooting her three times when she crawls. 
The adamantine calm of witnessing the world’s sorrows,
knowing, before we do, they will reach us,  

perfecting a devotion that forces him to watch them. 
The growling sleep, wet nose atremble, 
paws that jolt while the withered fiancé drags a thumb  

down his scruff and police dig bullets from doors and walls. 
Death is neither, merely, like the Indian word, 
another place along the river where he tracks her scent.


Author's Note: Sarena Moore was a victim of the Umqua Community College shooting in Oregon in 2015. I was amazed to read about the loyalty of her service dog who remained with her until the end. I tried to work in some local color and envisioned this stoic, unflinching animal linked with his ancestors through the human violence they observe and perhaps forgive us for inflicting.

Rick Viar earned an undergraduate degree in political science at George Mason University and a graduate degree in comparative literature at the University of South Carolina. He lives in Roanoke where he works in employee relations for a local manufacturer.