Saturday, April 28, 2012

New Dog : Poem In Your Post

"New Dog"(excerpt from "Atlantis")

Jimi and Tony
can't keep Dino,
their cocker spaniel;
Tony's too sick,
the daily walks
more pressure
than pleasure,
one more obligation
that can't be met.

And though we already
have a dog, Wally
wants to adopt,
wants something small
and golden to sleep
next to him and
lick his face.
He's paralyzed now
from the waist down,

whatever's ruining him
moving upward, and
we don't know
how much longer
he'll be able to pet
a dog. How many men
want another attachment,
just as they're
leaving the world?

Wally sits up nights
and says, I'd like
some lizards, a talking bird,
some fish. A little rat.

So after I drive
to Jimi and Tony's
in the Village and they
meet me at the door and say,
We can't go through with it,

we can't give up our dog,
I drive to the shelter
-- just to look -- and there
is Beau: bounding and
practically boundless,
one brass concatenation
of tongue and tail,
unmediated energy,
too big, wild,

perfect. He not only
licks Wally's face
but bathes every
irreplaceable inch
of his head, and though
Wally can no longer
feed himself he can lift
his hand, and bring it
to rest on the rough gilt

flanks when they are,
for a moment, still.
I have never seen a touch
so deliberate.
It isn't about grasping;
the hand itself seems
almost blurred now,
softened, though
tentative only

because so much will
must be summoned,
such attention brought
to the work -- which is all
he is now, this gesture
toward the restless splendor,
the unruly, the golden,
the animal, the new.

                   - Mark Doty

Beautiful and unexpected. I admire how the title absolutely captures the catalyst for the poem, yet the center is Wally, not Beau. Poignant and weighty, really, the final opening here, and yet Doty's tone is never sentimental, but rather quietly, profoundly celebratory.

How have the non-humans in your life revealed human truths or traits or triumphs to you?

Share a poem or a link to your poem-friendly blog with us today and spread the poem-love every weekend with a Poem In Your Post.


p.s.  Mark Doty is one of those contemporary masters of the transcendent quotidian in language that's cleanly accessible.  If you would like to sample more of his work, try his web site or his page on  You might also admire his brilliant long-form essay Still Life with Oysters and Lemon: On Objects and Intimacy or his gorgeous memoir Dog Years.  Even if you are not "an animal person", it will move you.

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