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Culture: Stories & Lit
Search and Rescue

Mia’s long sleek body arcs over Switchgrass
and Side Oats, Antelope Horns and Butterfly Weed.
Her nose and flews quiver to pull in scent—feral
hogs and gunpowder, cat piss and deer scat.
But more: she tracks the disruption my body
has left in its wake, the displaced molecules
as they swirl through her neural scrollwork,
the air regrouping behind me, the erasure
of shape that still trails my trace
as I wait to be found.

Culture: Stories & Lit
Traveler

the dog sprawls in a different room
every two hours and I wonder if
each is a small vacation for her, bones
in Barcelona this morning chasing
birds in Istanbul in the afternoon
then digging a hole in Montana to
surface in time for dinner in Shanghai

Culture: Readers Write
Lucky and Sam are their Names

I have two great companions

Lucky and Sam are their names.

Lucky, white with a bit of caramel,

And Sam, brown just like honey.

 

As I walked through the door,

I am never ignored.

I am greeted with joy,

And I tell them “who’s the good boy?”

 

They wag their tails with speed,

And lick me with so much glee.

They jump up high with their feet,

Hoping for a tasty treat.

 

They listen to my conflicts,

And are belly-rub addicts.

They can sniff up any danger

And protect me from a stranger.

 

I love them very much

Lucky and Sam are the names

Of my two companions.

Culture: Stories & Lit
Poems: Life with Dogs

When God made the sea,
looking over his shoulder
was a pack of dogs.

— Connie Hills

Life with Dogs

A good dog’s journey:
traveling light but never
sailing alone around
the room, walking, then diving
into the wreck of my heart
To salvage the bones
because the world does not end
in aimless love when
wagging tails and cold noses
pull us out of the darkness.

—Elizabeth Devore

Culture: Stories & Lit
My Dog
Tribute to an Old Dog

Our child was wee 

Scared of the dark

Moved to the desert

Where scorpions lay in wait

 

Sophie came to us from the pound

A big beast and ferocious

Gentle she was not

Loyal to a fault

 

Her tail was strong 

Her tongue always ready 

To share in happiness

Or just uplift spirits

 

Sleepovers with little girls, Ringlets and pajamas

She was in the middle of the bed

Her stocky frame occupying the bed

For she was one of the "girls"

 

She has seen us through crazy mornings

Breakfast and homework and teenage meltdowns

Heartbreak and joy

Sophie was there rock solid, tail wagging, tongue lolling

 

A faithful companion 

Stood beside us she did, as we bid our child goodbye

As she entered adulthood

With tears in her eyes, her tail down

 

Now she is old and lame

Bleary eyed, dribble in sight

But she remains the love of my life

What will I do Sophie when you leave me alone?

Culture: Stories & Lit
Poems: The Sound of Dogs Breathing
IF NO OTHER LISTENER Except myself and the dogs, would I write Poems for them? Rhythmic yips and a growl, Refrain of woofs, Their names repeated twice, A high yowl sliding down a rail To a quavering whine. And they do like some arrangements Better than others, they go from fast to slow. Lots of range in the howl, And the yaps, staccato, snappy as orders, Until I can’t continue their poem Because they are standing on my chest Licking my face, adding impromptu yelps. Of course I would write for them, Would take their critique seriously, Would collaborate with them on a dog poetics Which would change of course with every passing litter. Poems about the chase, about the snap Of jaws, about doggy humping and birthing, No poems of death or poems of writing. A lot might be said of such a poetics If no one were listening, only me and the dogs.   THE SOUND OF DOGS BREATHING The sounds of dogs breathing in the house, Their breaths rising and falling In darkened rooms. If late at night I pad to the kitchen Following the night lights And a vague thirst Paw pads follow me, A change in the rhythm Of inhalation, a sigh. Back to the bedroom, the breaths Relax, become regular. The night’s activity has shut down, And I am not alone.   THE WOLF he can hardly walk for all the myth he’s bearing, werewolf and night marauder, bloody-mouthed killer, though we remember the wolf of Perugia St Francis made a deal with, no more eating people and you’ll be fed, and the wolf became a model citizen, was mourned at death, and buried at the city gate. lone wolf, wolf-whistle, don’t wolf your food. my father had a wolf-dog as pet, not at home in either house or pen, inside knocked over tables and lamps, at night howled outside light leaking from his teeth, until my father opened up the chain-link gate, invited him in.

 

Culture: Readers Write
Poem: Paw Prints

One morning a woman was walking on the beach
with her dog.
While she was walking she remembered
all of the animals that had come into
and gone out of her life.
The woman stopped, but her dog walked on.

She turned toward the ocean,
and saw in the waves
the faces of every animal she had ever known.

She thought of all the animals
who would never see the ocean,
never run free, never know kindness.
She thought of all the animals who,
like her dog, would trust without having reason,
love unconditionally despite hardship,
forget pain and move forward.

She wanted to save every animal,
touch every life,
lead others to end hardship, and pain,
and suffering.

She watched her dog running along ahead,
his paw prints alone in the sand.
Calling to her dog, she began to walk
toward him, her footprints beside his.
It was then she realized,
her dog was the one leading the way.

Hearing her voice, he looked back,
and patiently waited for her to catch up. 

Culture: Stories & Lit
When Did I Fall In Love With You?
Poems: Valentine, Last Call and Leaving Alice

Last Call

It's ten p.m.
and my dog is telling me what to do.
You can't go to bed, she says,
until Davey has his pills
and I can't
until you have your cocoa,
so Sit!  Stay!
till I tell you it's okay.
That's better.
Good girl.
I know everything
that's done in this house
and the mouse
that lives under the tv
is my friend.

Valentine

When did I fall in love with you?
Was it when I saw you bundled
nose to bottom with your brothers
or the moment you decided to detach,
explore, and I admired your intellect,
aplomb?  Or was it when at last
you discovered – not me, exactly,
but my toes – and waddled over
for a nibble, spaniel mine?
You found I had two feet,
finished one, then started on the other.
Licking my toes became your sacrament,
sandals that led me into the barn
that hot June morning, my salvation.

Leaving Alice

A cry of anguish as I leave the house …
Alice, my dog of thirteen years,
is ninety-one in human terms and nearly
blind --  her world, the vet says, seen
through dark glasses.  I used to celebrate
her independence, but now she clings
as if each separation means forever.

I always say a careful goodbye before
going down our path to get the mail,
tell her we’ll meet outside as I go
out the front and she through her own
back door – but still she cries until
I’m in her view and she in mine.
We hold our hearts together, she and I.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Poems and Umwelt
Celebrating National Poetry Month Canine Style

It’s National Poetry month, and the goal since 1996 of this tradition is for people to see poetry all over the place. That means that people are placing poems in restrooms, on billboards, online and yes, even on dog collars.

The goal is for people to realize that poetry is everywhere, and part of that is understanding that the subjects of poetry are endless and anyone can write a poem. Of course, love is a prominent theme, as is the beauty of nature, but anything that interests a poet is a fair topic.

Naturally, many poets write about dogs, because they fall into the category of love, the beauty of nature and anything of interest to a poet. I particularly like one dog poem I discovered this month because it explores variation in perception.

It’s natural to assume that what we can sense is what’s out there, but each species has a very different view of “what’s out there.” Another way to say that is that every species has its own perceptual world, which is called the species’ Umwelt. That’s a German word that is most commonly translated as “subjective universe.” Jakob von Uexküll came up with this term in 1907 to describe the phenomenon of organisms having different sensory experiences (even if they live in the same environment) because of varying capabilities of perception.

The poem is by Lisel Mueller and is called What The Dog Perhaps Hears.

If an inaudible whistle

blown between our lips

can send him home to us,

then silence is perhaps

the sound of spiders breathing

and roots mining the earth;

it may be asparagus heaving,

headfirst, into the light

and the long brown sound

of cracked cups, when it happens.

We would like to ask the dog

if there is a continuous whir

because the child in the house

keeps growing, if the snake

really stretches full length

without a click and the sun

breaks through clouds without

a decibel of effort,

whether in autumn, when the trees

dry up their wells, there isn't a shudder

too high for us to hear.

 

What is it like up there

above the shut-off level

of our simple ears?

For us there was no birth cry,

the newborn bird is suddenly here,

the egg broken, the nest alive,

and we heard nothing when the world changed.

Do you have a favorite dog poem? Have you written canine poetry?

Culture: Stories & Lit
The Great Unwashed
Poem

My golden retriever, four years old,
has not yet learned to swim.
He is standing chest-deep

on the edge of a green, rippling
pool on the West Fork of Cold Spring.
The sandstone floor of the pool

slopes into the deep end, but he stays
rooted in the shallows, even though
an encouraging lifeguard stands by

in the person of his patient owner.
Come on, I say. Fetch! I say.
The stick floats in a sparkling eddy,

and my dog stares as if at the current
prom queen whose hair is coming
unpinned in moist tendrils

down her neck, an elusive girl
so far beyond his mud-stained nose
he dare not ask her to dance.

What does one do with a sin-bedraggled
high church dog who shrinks
from the rite of total immersion?

What can be said to convict
him of the rigid error of his ways?
It is a time, alas, to preach tolerance—

respect, even—for dogs who know
their chosen limits, who refuse
to get in over their heads.

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