Poem for September 1, 2012

September 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Unturning

for Ben S., 1936-2010

My friend said: write about the dog in The Odyssey
four hundred pages in. I found him lying on a dungheap
where ticks sipped his blood, though in his youth
he’d taken down wild animals, eager to kill
for a man the gods favored! Who comes back
in disguise; you expect the dog to give him away
with a lick or a yip, but this is not what happens.
Instead we’re told that “death closed down his eyes,”
instant he saw his master after twenty years away.
And I wondered if my friend had played a trick–

setting me up with this dog who does not do much
but die. When the gods turn away, what can we do
but await their unturning? That means: don’t think
that after so many years of having such a hard pillow,
the dog wasn’t grateful. But I wonder
if, for the sake of the shape of the plot,
the author ought to have let him remain
for another line or two, if only to thump again his tail.

-Lucia Perillo, from On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths (Copper Canyon, 2012)

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