the stiff-legged dog still
wants to play and race
old bones, stretched
taut muscles like lightning
through molasses across
the yard like she tore up
the house as a puppy once
a white storm with black ears
and teeth she flinches
when I put the ointment on
the scrapes from falling, but
I think she knows I’m helping
her know I understand you
are not having fun if
you’re not getting hurt
This Is Not a Literary Journal :: Inside of a Dog
phoebe licks my face
behind a cirrus scrim
the dog star
drifts up the night
predawn cold front
the greyhounds race back inside
Three bites taken on the run, two soggy feathers
float from his mouth, no sign left of any bird.
I call animal emergency:
Yuck, but your dog will be fine.
It’s what he’s made to do.
I call another vet just to be sure.
First, Ewww. But I am told the same.
It’s what he’s made to do.
My friends weigh in:
What’s one less grackle?
I hate those filthy birds.
Thank goodness. Grackles are awful.
Now, each morning I fill the feeders
as I’ve always done, and Joey follows
as he always has, but something’s new:
in the way he watches me pour the seed,
he admires how the trapper baits his traps.
This is from my poetry collection, Birds Nobody Loves, and was first published along with “North through Fog” in the February 2011 edition of The Houston Literary Review, which has, alas, disappeared from the ‘net without a trace.
It’s one of those poems that, unfortunately for the grackle, qualifies as nonfiction.
Birds Nobody Loves is on sale (15% off) through the holidays on Amazon and through my e-store and could make a great gift for the poetry or bird lover on your shopping list.
And, if you’ve already purchased a copy now or earlier, my sincerest thanks.
Perhaps I should be the poet laureate of my dog since Joey appears in two poems of mine that are recently published. The first, “Greyhound Joey vs. the Grackle” appears along with “North through Fog” in the February 2011 issue of the Houston Literary Review. The first of those is from my “Birds Nobody Loves” series which will someday be a chapbook and the other is from the “Highway Sky” series which is starting to sneak beyond chapbook length. Thanks to the editors of the Houston Literary Review for publishing those.
Joey’s literary adventures don’t end there, though. He also appears in a micro-haibun in the new pay attention: a river of stones anthology published by Fiona Robyn and Kaspalita who edited a massive amount of submissions from January’s river of stones challenge to produce a beautiful book that is worth every moment spent slowing down to savor it. There were a number of stones that I read in January as well as many that I missed along with some wonderful prose pieces. It was a treat to read again some of my favorites by Beth Adams, Angie Werren, Mark Stratton, and Kris Lindbeck. Along with some prose reflections on small stone writing by Beth Adams, Jean Morris, Laurie Kolp and Margo Roby. You can read the 2 stones I contributed at my mirco-poetry blog here and here (the second is another “Birds Nobody Loves” piece) or you can buy the book, which is really good.
And, now, Joey needs a walk. We’ll talk literature, and he’ll remind me that greyhounds are the only breed of dog mentioned in the Bible and then, who knows what inspiration the four-legged muse will next provide.
I imagine a fire eons ago. You can’t stare at a fire—even a fake one in an electric fireplace—for long without going back to those fires before history when we as a species made our bargain with the wolves. I wonder what it must have been like to hear those other social hunters out there in the night. To know how much they were like us.
When did that first wolf wander into some human encampment? Perhaps he said, if you give me a place by that fire and a share of what you kill with those nice fancy spears, knives, bows, rifles and ICBMs, I’ll help you track and hunt. I’ll warn you of danger at night. Someday I’ll rescue you from rubble and sit down when I smell cancer in your bodies. Mostly, though, I’ll stick with you even when you least deserve it.
Over time, Wolf traded in some wildness and size, domesticated himself just as we were doing the exact same thing. I read once that a key difference between Homo sapiens and our Neanderthal cousins was that they didn’t domesticate the wolf. That they somehow passed on this alliance with an animal that would be protector, partner, ally and friend.
We evolved together, us and the dogs, and that’s a large part of why it seems so right to live with dogs and so unnatural (to me anyway) not to have dogs around. But then dogs are wolves at heart, and bargaining with wolves can be a tricky thing. The wolf is likely to win, and he’ll make you not mind losing. For instance, my wife and I go to work every morning to earn the bread to put the beast into their bowls, and they lounge at home all day.
Sounds like that wolf that wondered into that ancient camp may have won that one. But that’s okay because to paraphrase The Stranger from The Big Lebowski: It’s good to know they’re out there takin’ ‘r easy for all us sinners.
Today is Phoebe’s 7th birthday. We got her a little over five years ago. When we met her, they said she was almost three and that her birthday was in January. I looked in her ear since racers have their birth dates tattooed in their ears and found an extra 1 buried under a tuft of black fur. She wasn’t born in January 2003, but in November. This dog we were getting wasn’t even two yet!
One-going-on-two is young for a racer to come off the track, but since her owner was apparently a true monster (as anyone who would involve themselves in the exploitation of greyhounds must be) she was lucky to be getting out alive at any age, and we fell in love with her immediately. Having a 65 pound puppy does have its challenges, though. On day one, she tore down the blinds, ate the corners off the coffee table, and shredded all the paper she could find.
It wasn’t long before she was eating windowsills and a giant hole in the middle of the wall. She even tried to eat Daphne once, though it’s clear they were just playing. Phoebe has always been a rough and tumble dog: she’s well known at animal emergency and even owns her own cone of shame.
She was afraid of me for a long time, but we went to school and while she didn’t learn much, she did learn to trust me. Over the years, she’s mellowed into a great dog. She’s spirited and full of energy and no matter how down one of us might feel, it’s almost impossible not to smile at Phoebe.
Living with dogs is one of the most natural things in the world. I couldn’t imagine life without these guys, and so today, happy birthday, Phoebe, and many happy returns of the day.