The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Ghost Dogs by Dion O’Reilly

Ghost Dogs

Two hundred pounds apiece,
with strong bodies, great black heads,
and sad, sagging faces, they were my companions
through the long years of childhood.
Mastiffs. Herds of them—
studs, a handful of bitches, scores of puppies.
Bored, in dusty clumps, they guarded the driveway,
pulling themselves up
onto oversized padded feet
to trail my horse through the hills,
then—with surprising speed—racing
up deer trails in futile pursuit
of coyotes or bobcats.

My friends risked stitches in their thighs
by knocking on the door,
and when the proud cars of boyfriends pulled up—
a gleaming ’68 Camaro, a convertible Bel Aire—
the pack ambushed them,
ferocious muzzles breathing steam,
drooling on the windows.

Now, all these years after leaving home,
I miss the dogs,
how formidable they were,
negotiating between me
and the world. I have
no silent creature at my side
to touch on her wrinkled brow,
no coiled animal to summon,
in love and ready to die.

This selection comes from Ghost Dogs, available from Terrapin Books. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Sunni Brown Wilkinson.

Dion O’Reilly’s first book, Ghost Dogs, was published in February 2020 by Terrapin Books. Her work appears in Cincinnati Review, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, Narrative, Sugar House Review, New Letters, New Ohio Review, Rattle, The Sun, and other literary journals and anthologies. She facilitates ongoing poetry workshops in a farmhouse full of wild art and is a member of the Hive Poetry Collective which produces radio shows, podcasts, and events in Santa Cruz. (

Sunni Brown Wilkinson’s poetry can be found in Western Humanities Review, Sugar House Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, SWWIM, Crab Orchard Review and other journals and anthologies. She is the author of The Marriage of the Moon and the Field (Black Lawrence Press 2019, finalist for the Hudson Prize) and The Ache & The Wing (forthcoming 2021, winner of Sundress’s 2020 Chapbook Prize).  She also won New Ohio Review’s NORward Poetry Prize and the 2020 Joy Harjo Prize from Cutthroat Literary Magazine. She teaches at Weber State University and lives in northern Utah with her husband and three sons. 

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