Too close for comfort

There is no right time.
Definitely no good time.

Whenever it comes
We will look back with regret

Wish we had done things differently
And moreover, never had to.

But the moment has always been there –
Buried in the small print

Of the pact we entered into
All those years ago

Never once imagining
We’d ever have to live it.

Having had a heart murmur for a number of years, our beloved whippet is now in congestive heart failure. No longer a case of if but when we will need to make A Decision, and probably sooner rather than later. I know there are many bigger, and far worse things happening in the world now: it’s still hard. Dogs are wonderful, but they do put you through it sometimes.

Misdirection

We do not write poems about dogs –
Not, at least, if we want to be taken
In any way seriously.

Dogs are not sensible, grown-up subjects
For sensible, grown-up writers.
They are not issues or arguments

But the stuff of rhymes we write at school
Like sunsets, springtime and the sea
The root of all doggerel.

No. Instead, we stick to abstractions
Write loftily of love, fidelity, domestic intimacy,
Age, infirmity, and the bitter, plunging agony of leaving

While carefully kidding ourselves
That we’re not really writing
About dogs at all.

Dog’s life

Me: So. What makes a good and worthy life?
My best friend just looks at me
With fond, pitying eyes that plainly say
What kind of question is that?
Please. I need to know.
OK. First, eat. Anything and everything put before you.
Plus whatever you can find. You may surprise yourself.
Then sleep. Dream. Find the warm spots.
Let others envy your repose, so instant and complete.
Yet always be ready to respond.
There is promise in every sound and movement. You just never know.
Ignore the stick, the ball, the bird:
Mere distractions, unworthy of your speed and skill.
Not so the cat, the rabbit:
Always engage with your true work. For you will have your day.

And those I meet?
Some will reach out, some recoil.
Learn when to press for friendship, and when to walk away.

What are my watchwords?
Loyalty without subservience.
Courage without recklessness.
Fierceness without savagery.

To sum up, then…
Live enormously.
Love immoderately.
Serve unfailingly.
Be adored, remarkable, irreplaceable.

And is that enough? I ask.
My best friend’s eyes are laughing now.
You tell me.

Their greatest fans, of which I’m one, would readily concede that whippets aren’t the brightest dogs in the world – they’re born to run, not to think – but like all canines, they know a thing or two about living. Even an example as irredeemably obtuse as our beloved Viggo is consistently in tune with what’s truly important in a way I never seem able to maintain. How I envy his simple outlook, uncomplicated moral code and serene, untroubled mind, especially in times like these. N.

Rictameters

IMG_0363

Dusk

The day
Grows weary now,
Decides to call it quits
So draws the clouds across the sun
And shuffles into twilight. Blackbirds call
From treetops but it does not turn;
Just fades away and leaves
A lonely world
To night.

 

Hounded

Your race
Is not against
The clock; no pack or prize
Impels you. All you have to beat
Is deep pain, your own doubt, the wasted days.
Recharge the lightning in your limbs,
Relight your inner fire:
I long to see
You win.

 

Revisiting rictameter. The second poem is for my beloved but somewhat banged-up whippet, who’s three weeks into a month-long convalescence from surgery to secure his left shoulder, which he dislocated in a fall at the beginning of April. He should make a full recovery given rest and time, but it’s going to be a long, slow job. Thank goodness for pet insurance…N.

A charm for Hallowe’en

A Charm Against Ye Knavish Trick-or-Treaters

 

Attend ye, this All Hallows’ Eve,
Heed this warning: take thy leave,
Get ye hence, touch not this door,
Retrace thy steps, disturb no more
Our sweet repose at close of day.
Thou art not welcome, go thy way.
Thy witch’s hat and monster mask
Shall not avail thee: prithee ask
Not here for toothsome snacks or sweets –
Demand elsewhere thy tricks or treats.
For in this house a creature lies
With sharp white teeth and burning eyes.
Flee while ye may, rouse not his wrath
And take again thy homeward path.
Be ye not heard, be ye not seen
Within our bounds this Hallowe’en.

 

A year later, it still makes me smile. N.

Big game

For two long years he hunted them
All through the watching wood;
Two years of coming oh-so-close
But not quite coming good.
His searing speed and sighthound’s gaze
Frustrated at the last
By the quarry taking to the trees
Like topmen up the mast.
A hunting-dog deprived, denied
His dream; the primal thrill
Of satisfying ancient lusts:
The chase. The catch. The kill.
Until, one dull grey afternoon
He passed us, in full cry,
A dozen feet to every stride –
We saw the dead leaves fly
As, suddenly, he jinked and swerved
And darted to the right,
And by a stand of silver birch
He made the lethal bite.
Oh, that he’d slain the noble hart,
Run Reynard to defeat!
A rabbit, even – that at least
We could have cooked to eat.
But no. He turned and, head held high
Accepted our applause,
With triumph blazing in his eyes –

And a squirrel in his jaws.

 

A silly ballad about our stupid dog – a little metrical therapy to end a weary day. N.

Pantoum: Sighthound

Sighthound

No time to hide. Don’t try to run;
I’ve seen you, and my eye is death.
Say goodbye to earth and sun.
Draw your final, futile breath.

I’ve seen you, and my eye is death,
Seconds now remain to you.
Draw your final, futile breath
I’ll take you as I’m bred to do.

Seconds now remain to you;
I have all the time I need.
I’ll take you as I’m bred to do,
I hunt by sight, kill by speed.

I have all the time I need;
Say goodbye to earth and sun.
I hunt by sight, kill by speed.
No time to hide. Don’t try to run.

 

 

Firework phobia

Scaredy-dog

His body shakes so hard
I can feel it in the floor.

A cartoon dog –
Scooby-Doo confronted
By the old man in the monster mask.

But this panting, whining
Circling like a colicky horse
Are real enough:

The wolf’s fear, untouched by evolution,
In the face of fire
Or at the slightest scent of man.

How to tell him
That those distant detonations
Are benign:

How to calm a terror
Of the unknown
And incomprehensible.

Counter to my intuition
The books and experts tell me:
Don’t stroke him, offer comfort.
Every soft word and caress
Will only make things worse.
Let him work it out himself.

So I keep my distance,
Carry on. And in my pretending,
Fool neither myself nor him.

At this moment
The bridges between the species
Are all blown.

And in his reproachful, staring eyes
I see myself accused
Of siding with the enemy.