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Poem of the Day-- Robert Wrigley

By John Published: April 27, 2010

Robert Wrigley was one of my teachers at the University of Oregon. He introduced me to my favorite Whitman poem, A Clear Midnight, and taught me to love the sounds of words. Here is his poem Dog, from The Virginia Quarterly Review.


For how many days had the dog shaken?
She'd shaken and shaken, standing
hunched, unable to walk or lie,

until exhaustion overtook her,
and pivoting on one leg she folded down
shaking, shakingand did not sleep

even on the last night or the next morning,
when he gathered her into his arms carefully
and she wheezed as though

the weight of her so borne
were a lack to the ribs.
And she drooled onto his sleeve

then lay in the sun
where he placed her looking up,
her half-hairless tail a faint pulse of approval,

as he raised the rifle
and placed the bead in the notch
of the sight,

on the slope of her slant forehead
and then among the mottled cowlicks
of the coat across her chest

and she died,
       was gone like that,
the bullet still chambered in its shell,
his finger barely nestled to the smooth curl

of the rifle's brass trigger,
so intent on his awful chore
he might not have noticed the stillness at all

if the shakingfor how many days
had it been?if the shaking had not been
the very motion taken by life itself in her,

another being that blood by blood
moved through his own brotherly bones
like rain or sap,

through the billion suckling mouths
his digging exposed
and to which he fed her,

saying over her grave the single word
she had come to know herself by,
never understanding it was no name at all.



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