Sunday, August 19, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

This is from a wonderful book, "Unleashed, Poems by Writer's Dogs," edited by Amy Hempel and Jim Shepard, published by Three Rivers Press and available in paperback.  It started out as writer friends exchanging little comments/poems by their dogs, and grew from there into a wonderful book.  This one is by Maxine Kumin. 

Gus Speaks

I was the last of my line,
farm-raised, chesty, and bold.
Not one of your skinny show-world
thirty-five pound Dalmatians.
I ran with the horses, my darlings.

Rivers they forded, wet
to the elbow, I swam.  Their lot
was my lot, my lope matching
their stride mile for mile.
Their smell became my smell.

Joyous I ate their manure.
Its undigested oats
still sweet, kept me fit.
I slept with one broodmare.
I curled at her flank.

My head on that bay haunch
we lay, a study in snores,
ear flicks, and farts in her stall
until the hour of her foal.
She shunned me most cruelly.

Spring and fall, I erred over
and over.  Skunks were my folly.
Then, I was nobody's lover.
I rolled in dung and sand.
My heart burst in the pond.

My body sank and then rose
like a birch log, a blaze
of white against spring green.
Now I lie under the grasses
they crop, my own swift horses

who start up and spook in the rain
without me, the warm summer rain.

                           Caesar August

1 comment:

Alon Perlman said...

Thank you again.
I didn’t think someone could top the Third Reich’s Kaiser’s dog’s poetic tale by Wislawa Szymborska. ( But here it is. Unique, original but with much the same wise fulfilled old dog self assured flavor and a first canines’ perspective of meadows ponds and springs. Another dog’s self braided full life’s tail. And though not ensnared by an external history, similarly distinct by being a post-mortem autobiography, a ghost dog memoir.
The introduction into how the compilation was conceived is a good read in itself, because as twice noted the collection is not about dogs- It is by dogs. and some more ghost dogs whisperings must be bound – there is a section called “Momento Mori”, and there the freely available information ends;

“Caesar August” at the tail end was initially a little of a wagging stumper; The dog’s name is after all “Gus”, short for August short for Augustus which is a form of Augustine and relates back to Gus much like Augustinian augments to Augustine, with or without the “E”. Yet “Gus”, the dog’s name also could be short for Gustavo originally Gustaf, like a king of Sweden bearing the name that literally means the “staff of the Geats”.

But, we can ignore the Germanic tribe of Geats for this iteration.
The convention in “Unleashed” is that each dog’s name appears at the end of their poem. Maxine‘s Dalmatian was named “Caesar” and so the dog signed his full name “Caesar August”- a dead dog’s paw print at the end of his personal epic poem.
But I prefer to think that a different convention took place, that of identifying the location of the writing, and that the poem was written in a hotel “Caesar Augustus” on the island of Capri near the Villa Jovis where Augustus Caesar’s successor, Tiberius Caesar, spent his reign.
Meanwhile, two years from two thousand years ago; On August 19, 14 CE at 3:00 PM, Augustus Caesar dies, 35 days from his 76th birthday, at Nola in Campania. Tiberius becomes emperor.