Saturday, November 3, 2018

Bags of Time

Among the books given to me is a slim volume of poetry I can dip into as the mood strikes, The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins. I enjoy poetry by an eclectic bunch of writers from Robert Browning to Wilfred Owen to Billy Collins and then I get sideswiped by a completely different voice like Wendell Berry, and my sister turned me on to Seamus Heaney. Anyway I was wandering through Google wondering and I came across another of Collins’ shaggy dog stories which struck a chord. The first dog poem of his I read was called Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep A Gun In The House and it made me laugh out loud in a bookstore so I felt obliged to buy the book.  I like to think that all the irritants listed here by the poet are spared my boy, seen here being walked by my wife on a visit to my rehab in the background. 

Anyway here’s Collins’ dog poem: 
The Revenant

I am the dog you put to sleep,
as you like to call the needle of oblivion,
come back to tell you this simple thing:
I never like you -- not even one bit.

When I licked your face,
I thought of biting off your nose.
When I watched you toweling yourself dry,
I wanted to leap up and unman you with one snap.

I resented the way you moved,
your lack of animal grace,
the way you would sit in a chair to eat,
a napkin in your lap, knife in your hand.

I would have run away,
but I was too weak, a trick you taught me
while I was learning to sit and heel,
and -- greatest of insults -- shake hands without a hand.

I admit the sight of the leash
would excite me
but only because it meant I was about
to smell things you had never touched.

You do not want to believe this,
but I have no reason to lie.
I hated the car, the rubber toys,
disliked your friends and, worse, your relatives.

The jingling of my tags drove me mad.
You always scratched me in the wrong place.
All I ever wanted from you
was food and fresh water in my metal bowls.

While you slept, I watched you breathe
as the moon rose in the sky.
It took all of my strength
not to raise my head and howl.

Now I am free of the collar,
the yellow raincoat, the monogrammed sweater,
the absurdity of your lawn,
and that is all you need to know about this place

except what you already supposed
and are glad it did not happen sooner --
that everyone here can read and write,
the dogs in poetry, the cats and the others in prose.

I would then thank you all for listening so politely and patiently. And I would profusely thank Billy Collins for the poems I love, but could not possibly have written.