April mornings, and revisiting old poems

Something there is about cold, rainy April mornings that brings me back (and back again) to poetry. I have shared poetry on various iterations of this blog for years now, mostly to a fledgling audience and rarely to any comment; yet on mornings like these, when I feel some inward tug to leaf through the digital pages of this and other publications, somehow the world keeps nudging me toward verse.

I wrote this poem, I think, in July 2006. In my folder of poems, it’s tagged No. 55. I took a second pass at it when I shared it on my former blog in April 2012, and I’ve taken another pass at it here today.

Here’s what I wrote six years ago:

I poked through my files of old things I’ve written and came across a poem I wrote years ago about burying a dog.

This is one of those instances when I’ve taken a real memory and employed some creative license. Still–having buried exactly two dogs in my life, I have to say the heaviness is always real, the finality always devastating, the fear that comes when it’s time to push a shovel into the earth.

I have since, sadly, buried another dog in the time between then and now, and the additional experience only confirms most of what I observed then and here in this poem. Read on:



We were smaller boys
than we first thought.
Josh leaned under the weight
of a spade shovel.
I carried an old bed sheet.

Not knowing where to look,
we went down to the road, still wet from rain.
One car shot past, then another,
each one unfurling our shirts like flags,
drawing us closer to the thick grass of the ditch.

We walked the entire yard in front of the house. Nothing.
I suggested we walk the fence line of the pasture
down where we played Army. Could be there.
Josh shifted the shovel to his other shoulder.

We nearly missed her.
She was crumpled in the ditch, covered
halfway by a piece of cardboard
blown atop her fur.

Death had dealt a glancing blow to the pup,
just a few spots of blood at first,
and a broken jaw grimace that suggested
nothing was right.

Neither of us wanted to touch the body.
We opened the sheet next to her, and with
the grace of two unpracticed boys, we
shoveled her stiff form onto our stretcher.
We struggled with the weight, dragging her
like a sack.

More blood. Her lungs had filled with it,
and now it leaked onto the daisy-patterned cloth,
soaked each flower red, covered our hands
as we heaved and tugged up the hill
to the house.

We presented ourselves to his mother,
each breathless and spattered
as if returning from some terrible war.
Take care of it, she said, walking inside.
It’s a man’s job.

Josh and I had never buried anything real,
never lifted damp, red clay with such purpose
until that morning, next to the silo
where the barn owl nested.

Perhaps he didn’t understand his mother
when she told him to go find his dog,
when she said get a shovel and a blanket.

Then, we were both mis-measured,
neither taller than the shovel,
nor feeling that day like a man.