Black Dog

Laylage Courie

Black dog, in this city we said would not hold us, you are holed up here in this lovely house.  Yes, I said Lovely.  But it is also empty.  And cold.  It wants a light in its middle it wants

  1. familiar smells and scuffed tracks
  2. a cake cut on the counter
  3. a fly buzzing in the trash
  4. a screen open to the murmur of rain
  5. a book with a cornered page.

This house is lonely. 
Its only joy is your music
thumping its walls
like a dazed swallow.

Black dog
with a rusty hook
crooked through his paw

But I did say “lovely.”  There is room to breathe.  A whole room for nothing but breathing.  A whole room to hold his darkness as loosely as cupped hands hold a trembling moth.

Where he walks
welt-red flowers bloom.


Six years after I last saw him, I walk into the bar for an eight o’clock film.  I see him (unchanged) seeing me (I want to say: changed).  He rises as if lifted from his seat by a groin-hooked string.  Some god more robust than time slaps my cheeks.  I blush, a long-legged sixteen years old, (mistrustful, shy) bear his embrace briefly, slump into a booth and try to tell him what I’ve lived through.  Feeling sixteen, I sound ridiculous.

Have no past.

Buy me another drink.

Every moment is
a fish arced
in its nonnative air
scales sparkling
like pomegranate seeds.

Let’s not plunge into
the years that lie
between me and you.

Around  each moment
the water is black and still.


Cigarettes, coffee, him, me, on a cement patio where gas tanks used to be.  The view loops like an ampersand through

  1. foothills
  2. black cherry
  3. broom switch
  4. pine
  5. water tower
  6. railroad
  7. truck yard

all under a winter southern sky

whose watery gold snaps my heart as if it were a cane stalk (my heart gives and gives then snaps apart.)  I hear it snap with his simple answer to:  What brought you back here?  ** It is so easy.**  Voice deep and muddy, the Ocmulgee after winter rains. He uses it too sparingly.  Say something else.  I feel ready to bundle my self up and set its course, with him as companion, down any once-familiar road.

In still water, weeds collect
fish heads, plastic,
snake skins, tire scraps, bottles, bird necks.

Almost ready.



In his house. 
It is empty.  And cold.
I sit on a dirty rug.  He sits in a vinyl chair.
I look up.  My skin blues in a gas flame
(his eyes).

What I want to do

is put my hands in your black thick hair.

What I want to do

is take your hands

the hands that play the instrument you hold in your arms

and put them


Pluck out of steel strings

every unquenchable thing

(thirst, lust, the wit that hits hot coal like water)




sad and tender

let it fray the fretwork

strip the wires

work its way out out out

a delicate cloud

of crepuscular wings

Almost ready.

3 A.M.


I  watch him drive.  Take me home to the house I grew up in along this road I no longer know.  The road that runs the yardage of time we’ve known since we were born.  The road is too wide.  It switchblades great swathes of developed land where I remember there being only fields, a school, one small grocery store. 


We pass the church on the hill

  1. the steeple top scaled



The steeple top
interior scaffolding scaled
cold as starlight
cold sweat
in darkness towards darkness towards a glass door
lock busted
chain broken
door forced open
onto a decorative balcony or ledge
at the top of the steeple
at the top of the church
at the top of the hill
my hands shaking

cool air, acres, acres of night.

  1. a summer funeral

The furious glare
of afternoon on the white portico
school friends shuffling, joking
eyes askance tossing glances
at you like flowers.

  1. His  hands in my hair

You pulled a broom out to fight
the flirting ex-con brought down from the hills social charity mingling good influence they snuck us cigarettes in the Sunday school hall smells of baby powder and crayons and old mimeograph ink.  We share a pillow you, me, one con (Doug?) says “I’m a leg man myself, what about you?”  You answered “I like all parts of a woman’s body” I folded my legs up under me, sat on my feet.

The road is lined with sulfurous lamps marking entrance, exit ramps.  The church on he hill is buried in subdivisions by an elevated bypass four lanes wide.  I DON’T KNOW WHERE THIS ROAD GOES ANYMORE.  What have I lived through?  Soon my past won’t even have a grave.  The remaining remembered places buried by bulldozers in a bed of gravel.

His truck’s motor rattles like an old projector.  How long have I known those hands?  Coarse-haired, delicate boned?  I watch him drive.  His skin is blue white like the moon. 

The church on the hill is.

Black dog.  Black brother. Companion of night of home of passing time I burn not to shed light (black dog I shed no light on the black soils of your or anybody’s night) but to brand you, this moment with you (and every other unquenchable thing) into the skins of night, the skins of the fish who arc out of darkness into light 

When they surface
(dazzling, convulsive)
they will be recognized.

I am ready.  Black dog.





Described by NYTHEATRE.COM as "truly passionate", "elliptical and poetic", and by the Atlanta Journal & Constitution as a "striking, enigmatic performer", Laylage Courie is a New York writer and theater-maker who uses extended voice, imaginative objects, and disciplined physicality to create space for words to work their magic--activating images immediately in an audience's imagination. Her work includes tea parties for voice and debris, dreamy cabaret, translations of films into words, and slide shows with film scores. Courie has received funding from the Axe-Houghton foundation, and most inspiringly, from unknown enthusiastic audience members. Essays on her work are published in The Magdalena Project/Odin Teatret's International Journal of Women in Theater, The Open Page.  Her script (stillness), a finalist receiving Honorable Mention in the 2008 Jane Chambers award for feminist performance text, is slated for a February 2009 reading at The Flea in New York.