All those years—paw of again, paw of let’s go,
of lake-plash, of come throw, perked ear
of what’s that? of yanked back who’s that?
unsettled pacer of storms, investigator of grass,
distinguished scholar of curbside, delighted
roller in the perfume of foul, sleek
fetcher, sock chewer, under table sleeper,
taut leaper into air & pond—then, all at once,
it became her turn & the reliable
body began—the unimaginable undoing;
while we—scratchers of belly & ear, callers of hey,
come back, diligent trainers of down & come,
companions of dawn, partners of rain,
& errand, stick throwers, ball wranglers,
chair readers & nappers,
while at our feet with twitch & yelp,
she rustles through the high grass of dream—
understood it was now our turn,
which meant—as it does with each animal sorrow
—doing the unimaginable.
Copyright © 2022 by Victoria Redel. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 21, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
About this Poem
“After the vet met us at 5:00 a.m. and, in the quiet of the office, we put our beloved dog down, my husband asked for her card. ‘Do you have another sick dog?’ she asked with concern. ‘No,’ he said, ‘I’m holding on to your card for when I need to die. It will be perfect. The quiet. The gentle quickness. Victoria right there touching my head and saying nice things.’ He was kidding. Kind of. This poem was my way of honoring that responsibility we take on with our animals. Less an elegy, I hope, than a winding, long sentence of celebration.”
Victoria Redel was born in New York City on April 9, 1959, a first-generation American of Belgian, Egyptian, Polish, Romanian, and Russian descent. Redel grew up in Scarsdale, New York, and later attended Dartmouth College, where she graduated with a degree in visual arts in 1980. She worked as an addiction counselor in hospitals in Greenfield and Concord, Massachusetts, before she returned to New York City to pursue her MFA in poetry at Columbia University.
Redel is the author of three poetry collections: Woman Without Umbrella (Four Way Books, 2012), Swoon (University of Chicago Press, 2003), and Already the World (Kent State University Press, 1995). She is also the author of four books of fiction, including the award-winning novel Loverboy (Graywolf Press, 2001), which was adapted into a feature film in 2005.
In her review of Woman Without Umbrella, Carolyn Forché writes, “Woman Without Umbrella braves the perilous world of the present in allegorical lyrics of unexpected love, wild survival, diasporic estrangement. These are poems of gratitude for the still quickening of mature eros, the still ‘bright absolute' of desire. Redel's luminous ‘postcards to the future' render our predicament radically legible, to be survived with whatever courage we can summon. Delight with her in a city of miraculous luck.”
Redel has taught writing at Columbia University, Davidson College, The New School, and Vermont College and has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is a faculty member at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in New York City.
Woman Without Umbrella (Four Way Books, 2012)
Swoon (University of Chicago Press, 2003)
Already the World (Kent State University Press, 1995)
Before Everything (Penguin Books, 2018)
Make Me Do Things (Four Way Books, 2013)
The Border of Truth (Counterpoint Press, 2007)
Loverboy (Graywolf Press, 2001)
Where the Road Bottoms Out (Knopf, 1995)
Date Published: 2022-03-21
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/pact-2