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Poetry Xtras » "Walking The Ties" by Jared Carter

Poetry Xtras provide brief commentaries, cultural & literary sign posts, or anecdotes about poems featured on Poetry X, written by the poet or a critic expert in the poem.

When I was a boy, growing up in a small town in central Indiana in the 1940s, domesticated dogs were part of the natural order of things, especially during the summers. Like the children in the neighborhood, they ran loose during the daylight hours, they had names and distinct personalities, and they had homes to return to when it got dark. The practice of chaining up a dog was unthinkable. And yet sometimes one of these pets was accidentally killed in the street by a passing automobile. This was cause for great shock and sorrow among the children who witnessed such an event. Inevitably there were calls for a funeral and a proper burial. At about this time my father would arrive in his pick-up truck. He would produce an enormous metal scoop shovel with which he would scrape the dead dog from the pavement. Bearing it before him, and followed by all the children in the neighborhood, he would walk a block south of our street to the city water works, a dilapidated brick building with a towering smokestack, where he would be met at the gate by one of the firemen on duty. The entire procession would be admitted and allowed to file into the main boiler room. The fireman would fling open a pair of cast-iron doors. Buffeted by the blast of hot air, we children would peer into the veritable fiery heart of hell. While we watched, terrified, my father would shovel the beloved animal into the depths of the flames, and the fireman would slam the doors shut.
—Jared Carter

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