This year to celebrate National Poetry Month and to take part in the April A-Z Blogging Challenge, I’ll be posting two poems a day, one written by me and another poem written by one of my favourite poets. The title or first word of both poems will begin with the corresponding letter in the Blogging Challenge.
Everyone who’s had a dog knows the intensity of the relationship which develops. We speak to them and even argue with them, hug them, kiss them, feed them, walk with them, cry with them, play and laugh with them, and miss them when they leave us.
Today, I present two poems, which will break your heart, about dogs who have died.
My poem, Farewell, Jacky, is dedicated to my pet dog, Jacky, who disappeared just over a year ago, at the grand old age of sixteen, in the hilly and woody countryside very near my house, and was never seen again. We were all heartbroken for a long time, and I almost shed a tear as I wrote her this poem, which is long overdue.
If she’d known we were parting,
She’d have said her farewell
With a hop, a lick and a bark,
But she didn’t look back,
Ran straight ahead. She fled
Alone, into the forest.
I chased torch in hand,
Yet couldn’t keep up.
The night swallowed white curls
My fingers had stroked
Sixteen years. She disappeared
Alone, into the blackness.
If I’d known we were parting,
I’d have wished her farewell
With a cookie, a hug and a kiss,
But she didn’t look back
When she left me. She departed
Alone, into the darkness.
Jacky’s last Christmas, on the left, and Harpo, my daughter’s dog, by my side.
The second poem, Dog’s Death is by John Updike (1932.2009), American poet, essayist, short-story writer, critic, and novelist. The poem made me cry the first time I read it almost forty years ago. It has the same effect every time I read it. Updike’s dog is a puppy who is intent on pleasing her owners, even though she’s dying.
Updike wrote about ‘ordinary lives’, routine experiences, which he tried to transform into interesting and thought-provoking events. This poem introduces us to a typical American family with children and a puppy, going about their daily chores while coping with their pet’s sickness and death. Heartbreaking.
She must have been kicked unseen or brushed by a car.
Too young to know much, she was beginning to learn
To use the newspapers spread on the kitchen floor
And to win, wetting there, the words, “Good dog! Good dog!”
We thought her shy malaise was a shot reaction.
The autopsy disclosed a rupture in her liver.
As we teased her with play, blood was filling her skin
And her heart was learning to lie down forever.
Monday morning, as the children were noisily fed
And sent to school, she crawled beneath the youngest’s bed.
We found her twisted and limp but still alive.
In the car to the vet’s, on my lap, she tried
To bite my hand and died. I stroked her warm fur
And my wife called in a voice imperious with tears.
Though surrounded by love that would have upheld her,
Nevertheless she sank and, stiffening, disappeared.
Back home, we found that in the night her frame,
Drawing near to dissolution, had endured the shame
Of diarrhoea and had dragged across the floor
To a newspaper carelessly left there. Good dog.
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