3 am small town. Thailand.
hotseason inkblack quiet sweatsleep
shuttered shops no cars no bikes no taxis
dim streetlights pick out bits of the sidewalk here, half a corner there.
The rats steeplechase through the day’s trash piles
the cats are hiding,
one dance ahead of the unloved street dogs
who have taken over the nightshift.

The invisible doglines are precisely drawn,
that dog has that corner
another mob have half the block.
snarling bared teeth mange scars limping legs
blind eyes cruel patches of dry blood
the medieval smell of unwashed dog mexican standoffs
cowering bitches tits heavy with pups
all in a mongrel language perfectly understood
positioned on the street like chess pieces, ready for any intruder.

One dog sets off a howling wolf blues wail that spreads over ten blocks
a lone motorcycle, teenage girl in pink
glued to the back of her boy’s black jacket
whines through,
dissolves the doglines just for a minute,
then the night restores them again.

The nightcleaners won’t work these mean streets alone.
These dogs must be a sign from the buddha:
Cured my allnight addiction to beer, boogie and banter.
I walk home at cinderella hour now.
Too doggone scared to stay out late.


Joep Rombouts

Joep Rombouts

Joep Rombouts was born in the Netherlands and grew up in South Africa, Australia and South America. He has a B.A. (social sciences and literature) and an M.Psych. (clinical). He has published a collection of short stories and poems set in Australasia, Crabs Go Backwards Sideways Down, and has written an unpublished novel, Wiseguys Wisemen.