Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Gone to the blogs

My granddad, viewing earth's worn cogs,
Said, "Things are going to the dogs."
His granddad in his house of logs
Said, "Things are going to the dogs."
His granddad in the Flemish bogs
Said, "Things are going to the dogs."
His granddad in his old skin togs
Said, "Things are going to the dogs."
There's just one thing I have to state:
The dogs have had a good long wait.


Dogs have been on my mind of late. My wife's family suffered the bereavement of their old dog Sally (a kind of bloodhound I think), and have now adopted a Jack Russell puppy, Pippa. I am not sure how Hector, their aging Alsatian, feels about this. But our one and a half year old son, who was a recent visitor (16 acres, half of it woods!), has found a soul mate. He and Pippa spent two days blissfully barking, chasing each other’s tails, nipping each other’s heels and so on. So much for him learning to talk. Dogspeak is far more fun: "so elegant, so intelligent."

Mark Doty's new collection, SCHOOL OF THE ARTS, abounds in canine concerns. There are poems about dogs and ones dedicated to dogs, such as 'Heaven For Beau':

"On one of his last walks, he stopped
near the corner of Thompson and Prince,

nostrils startlingly wide with the scent
drifted from a lunchstand soup kitchen's

open window. Believe me,
a dog's gaze opens, like ours,
when the world's an invitation..."

Of course there are also poems in it about (or featuring) people. He has a nice one about giving a hyacinth to Stanley Kunitz for his birthday, called, naturally, 'Heaven For Stanley'. Kunitz is an avid gardener apparently, and Doty's poem celebrates the cherished impermanence of flowers and plants, setting this (as one does) against his art: "I had thought poetry a brace against time,/ the hours held up for study in a voice's cool saline,// but his allegiance is not to permanent forms./ His garden's all furious change,// budding and rot and then the coming up again..."

And this of course, also, is where Doty's allegiance lies, those lines from 'Homo Will Not Inherit': "I'll tell you what I'll inherit: the margins." Such as, in that particular poem, steam on city streets. Dogs would approve.

'Letter To God' is an amusing fable (a kind of shaggy dog poem) offering a unique explanation for why dogs sniff each other's behinds. The original dog-ancestors elect to send a missive to God, pleading for an end to their suffering. The messenger is a retriever, who of course fails to return with an answer.

I wonder if Doty got this idea from another poem/fable, Heaney's, 'Tonight A Dog Was Crying In Wicklow Also'. It's about a similar petition to God (or Chukwu), this one from humans who wish to put a stop to mortality. Heaney's does not have a comic-erotic element, but is beautifully elegiac. As in Doty's poem, the messenger is a dog who gets distracted (by a toad in that instance):

"And that is how the toad reached Chukwu first,
The toad who'd overheard in the beginning
What the dog was meant to tell. 'Human beings,' he said
(And here the toad was trusted absolutely),
'Human beings want death to last forever.'

Then Chukwu saw the people's souls in birds
Coming towards him like black spots off the sunset
To a place where there would be neither roosts nor trees
Nor anyway back to the house of life.
And his mind reddened and darkened all at once
And nothing that the dog would tell him later
Could change that vision. Great chiefs and great loves
In obliterated light, the toad in mud,
The dog crying out all night behind the corpse house."

I once drew a cartoon about Dublin dogs, called 'Gurriers'. I still have the first strip somewhere, which I sent in to IN DUBLIN, who weren't interested, unsurprisingly. Maybe I'll post it here if I can find it.

We have kept only cats since our last dog, Terry, ambled off one day in his obese, arthritic old age, some 25 years ago, never to return. Maybe dogs, like elephants, have their secret graveyards. And whether we keep them as pets or not, they shadow the borders of our lives, sometimes stepping briefly into the spotlight, so that we can't, for some reason, forget them. Like that one I saw when I got off a plane in Athens:

Glass airport doors slide
wide, for a lame dog, Argos,
in from the Greek sun.


sean lysaght said...

Fabulous photo! I took my dog for his first nocturnal walk last evening just before going to bed. My shadow was clear under a large moon, and starry sky. Why had I not done this before? I wondered. The path leads down from the house, through a gate, and into a five-acre field. The house with its lighted windows seemed to float in mid-air above me. I'm reading bits and pieces from Emerson and Thoreau at the moment for my teaching - they are excellent guides for anyone who would like to get to know better what's right under our noses. I have lived in this patch of countryside for five years now, but I'm a long way from knowing it; one doesn't take enough time to look, listen, walk, etc.

tp said...

Hi Southsider,
It,s the ol'gaffer here, love the site will be keeping an eye on ye. The saturday walk got off to a good start with a walk to the week it's across the cliffs to Greystones, will photo the outing.

tp said...

Hi Southsider,
It,s the ol'gaffer here, love the site will be keeping an eye on ye. The saturday walk got off to a good start with a walk to the week it's across the cliffs to Greystones, will photo the outing.

tp said...

dear southsider,

It is noted you missed the Tuesday chapel a vote of hands you have escaped the usual treatment only because it was St Valentines nite ....we understand your romantic side.

Poet Bloggs said...

Where have the irish blogging poets gone? Both you and Peter seem to have given up.