to give the thing a name that belongs to something else

            I whom the dogs trust 
     dog you all night 
                                       under my arm

 
   so many new years days

                                                      to mark per year
                                    my fingers hurt
   
                  from stroking the sun


                                these sulky strays 
                 lick 
                           my tongues 
                       my hurts clean 

                                         as an echo 
               rippling through the valley



                      how can I thank them?
                                    where will you be then?

Related Poems

Dear Lonely Animal,

I'm writing to you from the loneliest, most
secluded island in the world. I mean,
the farthest away place from anything else.

There are so many fruits here growing on trees
or on vines that wrap and wrap. Fruits
like I've never seen except the bananas.

All night the abandoned dogs howled.
I wonder if one dog gives the first howl, and if
they take turns who's first like carrying

the flag in school. Carrying the flag
way out in front and the others
following along behind in two long lines,

pairs holding hands. Also the roosters here crow
from 4am onward. They're still crowing right now
and it's almost noon here on the island.

Noon stares back no matter where you are.
Today I'm going to hike to the extinct volcano
and balance on the rim of the crater. Yesterday

a gust almost blew me inside. I heard
that the black widows live inside the volcano
far down below in the high grasses that you can't

see from the rim. Well, I was going to tell you
that this morning the bells rang and I
followed them and at the source of the bells,

there I found so many animals
all gathered together in a room
with carved wooden statues

and wooden benches and low wooden slats
for kneeling. And the animals were there
singing together, all their voices singing,

with big strong voices rising from even
the filthiest animals. I mean, I've seen animals
come together and sing before, except in

high fancy vaults where bits of colored glass
are pieced together into stories. Some days
I want to sing with them.

I wish more animals sang together all the time.
But then I can't sing sometimes
because I think of the news that happens

when the animals stop singing.
And then I think of all the medications
and their side effects that are advertised

between the pieces of news. And then I think
of all the money the drug companies spent
to videotape their photogenic, well-groomed animals,

and all the money they spent to buy
a prime-time spot, and I think, what money
buys the news, and what news

creates the drugs, and what
drugs control the animals, and I get so
choked I can't sing anymore, Lonely Animal.

I can't sing with the other animals. Because it's
hard to know what an animal will do when it
stops singing. It's complicated, you know, it's just

complicated—

Once

white field. And the dog
dashing past me
into the blank,

toward the nothing.
Or:
not running anymore but

this idea of him, still
in his gold
fur, being

what I loved him for
first, so that now
on the blankets piled

in one corner
of the animal hospital
where they’ve brought him out

a final hour, two,
before the needle
with its cold

pronouncements,
he trembles with what
he once was: breath

and muscle puncturing
the snow, sudden
stetting over the tips

of the meadow’s buried
grasses after–what
was it, a rabbit?

Field mouse? Dashing
past me on my skis,
for the first time

faster, as if
he had been hiding this,
his good uses. What

a shock to watch
what you know unfold
deeper into, or out of

itself. It is like
loving an animal:
hopeless, an extravagance

we were meant for:
startled, continually,
by what we’re willing

to feel. The tips
of the grasses high
in the white. And the flat

light, drops of water
on the gold
coat, the red, the needle

moving in, then out,
and now the sound of an animal
rushing past me in the snow.

Again a Solstice

It is not good to think
of everything as a mistake. I asked
for bacon in my sandwich, and then

I asked for more. Mistake.
I told you the truth about my scar:

I did not use a knife. I lied
about what he did to my faith
in loneliness. Both mistakes.

That there is always a you. Mistake.
Faith in loneliness, my mother proclaimed,

is faith in self. My instinct, a poor polaris.
Not a mistake is the blue boredom
of a summer lake. O mud, sun, and algae!

We swim in glittering murk.
I tread, you tread. There are children

testing the deep end, shriek and stroke,
the lifeguard perilously close to diving.
I tried diving once. I dove like a brick.

It was a mistake to ask the $30 prophet
for a $20 prophecy. A mistake to believe.

I was young and broke. I swam
in a stolen reservoir then, not even a lake.
Her prophesy: from my vagrant exertion

I'll die at 42. Our dog totters across the lake,
kicks the ripple. I tread, you tread.

What does it even mean to write a poem?
It means today
I'm correcting my mistakes.

It means I don't want to be lonely.