For a Dog
You’d wake us up—that shrill, insistent bark
Driving away whatever dreams had fogged
Our vision—and we’d rise in the true dark,Wondering just what exactly, catalogued
By canine instinct under “THREAT,” was there,
What jogger, cat, or dog it was that doggedYou from your drowse beside the easy chair
And summoned your yapped pandemonium.
Nine times in ten it was just empty air,Some ghosted scent you sniffed. Dumb—you were dumb,
Like all dogs, snuffling up to snakes, afraid
Of mice. When we said “come,” you wouldn’t come;You capered when commanded to play dead,
And when we wanted most to be alone
You’d offer up that imbecilic headUntil we crowned your pity with a bone.
Our lives took on the shape you spun from need,
The harried rondure of routine. You gone,The house is quieter, and we’ve been freed
Forever from the never-ending chores
Your tail entailed, the scrubbing where you peed,The hunting stain-removers down in stores.
What’s hardest are the peaceful hours we wanted
So much when you were scratching up the doorsAnd howling at some phantom thing that haunted
The world without, some threat we couldn’t see
That you were desperate to have confronted.Now you’re part of that present unity
Of absences the living move among,
In which what was, what will, and what can’t beDance in a ring to a triumphant song
We don’t have ears to hear, or heart to see,
Who sleep now perfectly, and much too long.
Copyright © 2018 by Ryan Wilson
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission
Ryan Wilson’s first book, The Stranger World, was awarded the 2017 Donald Justice Poetry Prize (West Chester University Poetry Center/ Measure Press). His work appears in periodicals such as First Things, Five Points, The Hopkins Review, The New Criterion, and The Sewanee Review. Currently a doctoral candidate at The Catholic University of America and the editor of Literary Matters, he lives with his wife north of Baltimore.
New Haven, Connecticut
Since 1911, The Yale Review has been publishing new works by the most distinguished contemporary writers—from Virginia Woolf to Vladimir Nabokov, from Robert Frost to Eudora Welty. The journal’s pages have, for almost a century, been filled with the most exhilarating and astute writing of our times. Under the editorship of J. D. McClatchy, himself a prize-winning poet, The Yale Review presents up-and-coming writers, explores the broader movements in American thought, science, and culture, and reviews the best new books in a variety of fields.
“I look forward to The Yale Review because I know I will encounter historians and poets, essayists and reviewers, who will take me on the most intriguing excursions beyond the headlines.”
—Peter Jennings, Broadcast Journalist
“It’s good news that this noble, long-established periodical is back in circulation.”
“The Yale Review, with its distinguished history, is one of the very finest of American literary journals. Its thoughtfully edited contents include both imaginative and critical writing of a very high—and entertaining—order.”
—Joyce Carol Oates