The dog days of summer are those terribly hot days in July and August when even dogs don’t want to get up! But here are some fine poems—with dogs in them—that manage to keep their cool!
Song of the Small Dog
The dog raids the railroad yard
to run alongside a car with no one he knows in it.
Decorum is not a word he’s learned,
not like sit, heel or fetch, which he ignores
with a drawling blink and a gaze
that drifts in a less demanding direction.
He has undone the dark with his shed of white hair,
pointy teeth up and down like a deficient zipper.
When the clock comes around and it’s time
for delivery, he outdoes the doorbell,
plunging lunkhead down the steps,
body breaking into small barks.
Landscape With a Quote from a Painter Hidden Within
There are letters I haven’t written, artists
who have painted my time into their canvas—
a blue house on hillside, sky
rising above the power plant.
There’s electricity in the sparrow’s path.
There is a bag of gladiolas bulbs sitting on my table.
Nothing will happen if I do not act. If I want petals
in my kitchen. If I want the flowers in my garden
to look like cakes.
Time is buried in the dog hair
wafting down the stairs. Or beauty.
It’s hard not to be critical
in both fairytales and disasters.
Mostly, we’re somewhere
in between—pillow and earthquake,
window and storm cloud, the afternoon resting
safely on our nightstand.
[Note: Wayne Thiebaud, “It’s hard not to be critical.”]
Years ago, I typed
on a manual typewriter,
a Corona. When the Corona died,
I bought a refurbished
a finished line rang
a small bell,
a sweetly signaled
and a silver handle
returned the carriage
to start a new line.
I’d type all day,
a black dog under the desk
lying heavily on my feet
to keep me on task,
her brown eyes urging me on,
her doggy life a model
of fidelity and love.
It was almost as if
Blackdog were my muse,
telling me what to say,
translating from the keen
silence of a dog’s mind
those intuitions and insights
I would never have dreamed
on my own. Unfortunately,
I proved to be a woeful typist,
always hitting the wrong keys
and sacrificing many white pages
for the sake of a single poem.
Under clumsy fingers
the type bars would
collide and jam,
the inspired moment stall
and die in a tangle of letters,
and soon I’d find
my hands blackened
with the ribbon and spools,
always starting over,
advancing a clean sheet,
and typing every line
over again slowly,
beginning with the title
while Blackdog snored
and dreamed of rabbits
and squirrels. The Royal
demanded virtuosity, vigor—
I had to strike hard
to trigger the keys;
but the daily work,
hard and often unyielding,
and typing on the Royal
like a refiner’s fire
and I’d read my poems
to my dog, who listened
to see if I understood,
as I revised draft after
sculpted draft in hopes
of permanence. Now
the world has moved forward—
words made of light.
But the old Royal
still sits on a bookshelf
and Blackdog lives in my heart,
if only for the sake of nostalgia,
I’ll roll a clean white sheet
into the faithful carriage
and type a few lines,
would have me write—
a letter to my mother
or a silly note
I’ll slip into my daughter’s lunchbox.
What are you sniffing out there
nose pointed to the sky?
Leaves, crisp ocher and russet,
signal from the arms of the oak.
Caught in each gust,
they tumble to earth, and you
pile on with them,
jump into the middle and fly.
So the season of the fall begins
as it should, not with a long mournful wail
but a howl of delight,
welcoming squall and sun,
reminders of the passion
we set by for our long winter’s nap.
[originally appeared in Nimrod International Journal, and included in Dog Days: A Way of Speaking (Coman & Associates, September 2013)]
Click on each poet’s name to see her or his solo poetry feature here at Escape Into Life. The art is by Lisa Ann Watkins.
The Dog Days of summer continue, so come back next Wednesday to see more dog poems, these by Peg Duthie, Christina Lovin, Joe Wilkins, Paul Hostovsky, and Aaron Anstett!
In the meantime, here’s a hot link to a poem by EIL poet Susan Elbe!