There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie—
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.
When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find—it’s your own affair—
But… you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.
When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!).
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone—wherever it goes—for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.
We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long—
So why in—Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?
This poem is in the public domain.
It's just getting dark, fog drifting in,
damp grasses fragrant with anise and mint,
and though I call his name
until my voice cracks,
there's no faint tinkling
of tag against collar, no sleek
black silhouette with tall ears rushing
toward me through the wild radish.
As it turns out, he's trotted home,
tracing the route of his trusty urine.
Now he sprawls on the deep red rug, not dead,
not stolen by a car on West Cliff Drive.
Every time I look at him, the wide head
resting on outstretched paws,
joy does another lap around the racetrack
of my heart. Even in sleep
when I turn over to ease my bad hip,
I'm suffused with contentment.
If I could lose him like this every day
I'd be the happiest woman alive.
From The Human Line (Copper Canyon Press, 2007). Copyright © 2007 by Ellen Bass. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.
As if there could be a world
Of absolute innocence
In which we forget ourselves
The owners throw sticks
And half-bald tennis balls
Toward the surf
And the happy dogs leap after them
As if catapulted—
Black dogs, tan dogs,
Tubes of glorious muscle—
More than obedience
They race, skid to a halt in the wet sand,
Sometimes they'll plunge straight into
The foaming breakers
Like diving birds, letting the green turbulence
Toss them, until they snap and sink
Teeth into floating wood
Then bound back to their owners
Shining wet, with passionate speed
For absolutely nothing but joy.
Copyright © 1998 by Alicia Ostriker. Used with permission of the author.
My mother and I and the dog were floating Weightless in the kitchen. Silverware Hovered above the table. Napkins drifted Just below the ceiling. The dead who had been crushed By gravity were free to move about the room, To take their place at supper, lift a fork, knife, spoon— A spoon, knife, fork that, outside this moment’s weightlessness, Would have been immovable as mountains. My mother and I and the dog were orbiting In the void that follows after happiness Of an intimate gesture: her hand stroking the dog’s head And the dog looking up, expectant, into her eyes: The beast gaze so direct and alienly concerned To have its stare returned; the human gaze That forgets, for a moment, that it sees What it’s seeing and simply, fervently, sees… But only for a moment. Only for a moment were my mother And the dog looking at each other not mother Or dog but that look—I couldn’t help but think, If only I were a dog, or Mother was, Then that intimate gesture, this happiness passing Could last forever…such a hopeful, hopeless wish I was wishing; I knew it and didn’t know it Just as my mother knew she was my mother And didn’t…and as for the dog, her large black pupils, Fixed on my mother’s faintly smiling face, Seemed to contain a drop of the void We were all suspended in; though only a dog Who chews a ragged rawhide chew toy shaped Into a bone, femur or cannonbone Of the heavy body that we no longer labored To lift against the miles-deep air pressing Us to our chairs. The dog pricked her ears, Sensing a dead one approaching. Crossing the kitchen, My father was moving with the clumsy gestures Of a man in a spacesuit—the strangeness of death Moving among the living—though he world Was floating with a lightness that made us Feel we were phantoms: I don’t know If my mother saw him—he didn’t look at her When he too put his hand on the dog’s head And the dog turned its eyes from her stare to his… And then the moment on its axis reversed, The kitchen spun us the other way round And pressed heavy hands down on our shoulders So that my father sank into the carpet, My mother rested her chin on her hand And let her other hand slide off the dog’s head, Her knuckles bent in a kind of torment Of moonscape erosion, ridging up into Peaks giving way to seamed plains With names like The Sea of Tranquility —Though nothing but a metaphor for how I saw her hand, her empty, still strong hand Dangling all alone in the infinite space Between the carpet and the neon-lit ceiling.
Originally published in Space Walk (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007). Copyright © 2007 by Thomas Sleigh. Used with the permission of the poet.
But the moths find you, phantom. & the crackle of the javelinas in the brush old litany defiled the doorling stood canon toting So, you know the ground here? Where else is new or to you called unknown: gumtree tipping onto the marsh meadow's shoreline The apology wends off as smoke ground to gravel. So you were here alright, coughing on the live tape: a canoe's mystery hurt by its name Fall back with your hands before or behind you just so.
Copyright © 2010 by Joshua Marie Wilkinson. Reprinted with permission of the author.