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The John Edward Johnson Prize

Terri McCord


God Backwards

Heel to the dog
like heel to toe
or Achilles
but I hear heal, heal
like a salve
like digging out a splinter—
her legs, her legs
like quick matchsticks
that don’t strike—
under tufts of fur,
and she obeys
for a time, this small
collie mutt that calls
to mind fields of open
space and sheep she
can chase, and I stand
as herder. I have
heard the call—
as I heal-heel,
step faster to keep up
to her border balance-beam
prance, and I smile,
not yet out of breath
as she smiles over
her shoulder, shakes
the collar and heeds nature’s call
in another’s yard
while I wince in joy.