Wednesday, October 16, 2013


                                                                                                                            photograph by Jenny Schroedel

H O W   I T   I S   W I T H   U S,   A N D
H O W   I T   I S   W I T H   T H E M

We become religious,
then we turn from it,
then we are in need and maybe we turn back.
We turn to making money,
then we turn to the moral life,
then we think about money again.
We meet wonderful people, but lose them
     in our busyness.
We're, as the saying goes, all over the place.
Steadfastness, it seems,
is more about dogs than about us.
One of the reasons we love them so much.

—Mary Oliver  from Dog Songs, 2013

•    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

There is a poodle in our building, whose name I cannot remember. Riding the elevator one day with the poodle's owner, a warm but reserved woman, I asked her name. "My name?" she asked, "or the dog's name?" I smiled, "no, your name." That is to say, I am no dog person. Even now I remember my neighbor's name, but not the poodle's name. I do not dislike dogs, or cats, or animals in general—but I do not think about them much, excluding birds. (I think about birds regularly, sometimes obsessively, stalking around to find the source of some unfamiliar trilling. Or, for example, I know when the hawks are circling my building before I hear or see them, because I know the jays' or crows' angry warnings when the hawks are cruising by).

But my best friend is a dog person, she took the photo above of her dog and chicken on the stoop of her Hawaii home. She always has a dog or two at hand. This weekend, with C at our favorite bookstore in New Paltz, I came across a new book of Mary Oliver's poems, Dog Songs. I wouldn't have picked up a book with that title if I didn't already like the author, but as I do I picked it up. It's marvelous. It makes me want to be a dog person. But I can't keep it, it is too good a present for my dear friend, so it will fly off to Hawaii tomorrow. But before it goes I will share another of its poems here.

•    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

B E N J A M I N,   W H O   C A M E   F R O M
W H O   K N O W S   W H E R E

What shall I do?
When I pick up the broom
     he leaves the room.
When I fuss with kindling
    he runs for the yard.
Then he's back, and we
     hug for a long time.
In his low-to-the-ground chest
     I can hear his heart slowing down.
Then I rub his shoulders and
     kiss his feet
and fondle his long hound ears.
     Benny, I say,
don't worry. I also know the way
     the old life haunts the new.

—Mary Oliver  from Dog Songs, 2013

{ p o e t r y   w e d n e s d a y }

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