Animal Sunrise

I stood at the corner

of Tenth and Cherry

in the morning sun,

waiting for the smoke shop

to open up–battered,

bruised and damn near broken, 

cussing quietly to myself

in languages I had not

previously known existed.   

Out of the corner of my eye

I saw a German Shepherd's

shadow and got whipped

by his tail several times

as he circled around me

in excitement, which 

bound me in his leash

of Lakers purple and gold. 

Therapy saved my life

in that strange moment: 

deep breathing,

cool and calm once

I saw that his owner

who I initially

had wanted to scream at

was a hardcore skinhead,

his face covered in

tattoos of burning skulls. 

He said sorry about that.

He unwrapped me from

my chains, and I quietly

thanked him in my head

for not murdering me. 

I continued to stand,

waiting, looking

at the pigeons lined up

along the telephone line,

wondering how

I was going to avoid

the path of their shit,

rotten splatters against

dangerous pavement

in an urban wild kingdom

where errands are cursed

by surprise booby traps—

kindness is a useful armor,

no matter how pissed off I get. 

Kevin Ridgeway is the author of Too Young to Know (Stubborn Mule Press) and Invasion of the Shadow People (Luchador Press.  His work has appeared in New York Quarterly, Hiram Poetry Review, Slipstream, Paterson Literary Review, Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy, One Art, San Pedro River Review, Spillway and Heavy Feather Review, among others.  He lives and writes in Long Beach, CA.