Photograph of My Brother and His Dog by Joyce Compton Brown

The dog holds out his paw,

fuzzy in the photo, but waiting

to be held. The boy’s hand

is near the paw. his other hand

wrapped around the dog,

Fixate on hand and paw,

human—doggy nails

so close, for joy, not pain.

This is dog-love, boy-love—

As close to oneness as two species

can get. Bodies lean into love.

All centers on paw and hand,

near one another, trying to hold on.


It’s an old snapshot,

black and white.

No artsy composition,

just grab the boy and dog

together. It’s been scanned,

enlarged from a tiny 4x3,

imperfections heightened. 

The white blemish at the boy’s temple,

bright against his tanned face,

white and black streaks trailing

downward, maybe from the printer.

The photographer probably didn’t mean

to capture that gray downward

pointing cluster of leaves,

hovering above boy and dog,

the outbuilding with invisible

roof. He probably had to act fast,

before they disappeared.


This isn’t the photo I remember—

Here is cozy boy-dog love.

You can see how the boy’s eyes

stare straight down— a heart-gaze.

Not too long from now,

the neighbor will poison the dog.

The picture I remember is the boy

walking out of the woods, carrying

the dog like a baby. It is dying.

the boy is sobbing childhood’s last tears.
Photo by Bekka Mongeau on

About the Poet:

Joyce Compton Brown grew up in Troutman, NC, in a family with deep agrarian roots. After graduate studies at Appalachian State and The University of Southern Mississippi, she taught at a small university, using summers for further study in  Appalachian culture and poetry. She loves roots music and plays the banjo with minimal skill but with pleasure. She lives with husband and cat in Troutman and has authored Bequest (Finishing Line), Singing with Jarred Edges (Main St. Rag), Standing on the Outcrop (RedHawk),  and Hard-Packed Clay (RedHawk, 2022).


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