Alice Friman

The Dog Days of August and Elaine’s Story
July 22, 2022 Friman Alice

The Dog Days of August


What huge effort to move through
this soup! Even leaves droop, trees
too tired to care. What’s restless
are dogs, pacing and howling all night.
Not to the moon as you’d think,
but to the constellation that gave them
this month: Canis Major, the Big Dog,
who scrambles over the cusp each August
sporting a blue ribbon on his chest for
the brightest blaze of summer—
Sirius the Dog Star. Best of Show.


Thus, it must have happened that
eons ago when God said, Let us make
man in our image, the Big Dog cleared
the glory from his throat and barked,
“Let it also be for me and my kind,
for is it not written in the stars
which light the very vault of heaven
that I, Orion’s faithful follower and all my
tail-wagging kin, should be among the blessed?”


And that is why here in Georgia
dogs carry on in August, overcome
not merely with heat but with gratitude
for the Big Dog’s gifts—their chew toys
and their bone. And why for thirty-one days
set aside each year—thirty-one squares
on the calendar—bags of garbage
steam at the curb to sniff and tear into.
Manna for the forgotten of the world,
the mangy and the strays.



Elaine’s Story


Last summer before the fever
spiked to simmer under her skin,


inking itself in to write its name,
we met one Saturday on a corner


in Birmingham where she’d moved
to start a new life. A coffee shop


in Birmingham I could never
find again even if I had to. She—


too thin, skin and bones, a wisp.
But that day, as I watched her


come toward me down the street,
silver hair caught up by the wind,


a blouse of sheer, white stuff
billowing about her, it seemed


as if the sun had turned its shine
into a wash of light for her to


walk in, float in really, for she
barely skimmed the sidewalk—


so happy she was. And I wonder
if my Russian grandmother who


buttered her bread on both sides
and lived to be ninety-nine wasn’t


right after all: We pay, we pay.
For every peach a pit, for every


blessing a curse. Not just in this
story. Sooner, later in everyone’s.


Grandma’s been gone forty years
come April, but I see her shaking


her head in pity to witness this
woman’s breathless joy telling me


how she finally found her way—
the ugly past behind her, and she


all hope to try again. No inkling
of the target she was, the bull’s-eye


on her back, the neon sign flashing
vulnerable, compromised, ripe.

Alice Friman’s eighth collection of poems, On the Overnight Train, is a New & Selected due out from LSU Press in February. Her last books, also from LSU, are Blood Weather, The View from Saturn, and Vinculum which won the Georgia author of the year award in poetry. A recipient of two Pushcart Prizes and included in Best American Poetry, she’s won many prizes and has been been published in Poetry, Ploughshares, Plume, Georgia Review, Gettysburg Review, Crazyhorse, Poetry East, Massachusetts Review, and many others. Her website is