Two Dogs at Home

January 4, 2014

Despite ‘the casual avalanche
of books’ piled high against the door
. Despite
‘a freeze in the nose’, a cold clarity of air
so bright it could make the woods into ‘a flame
alive rather than a frozen dead forest’.
Seems his every poem must resemble
a nightmare.
Seems a certain dream that you
and I must be having together…
of ‘faint cages in bright houses’, is his poem.
*
We pause and stand, freeze and point. A tree,
there is something tangled in its branches.

A nest of clothes, an old wedding dress.
What conscious scoundrels.
They know he’ll have to climb the tree
and pull the dress down. They know
he won’t be able to think it’s something
the wind arranged.
Winter pretending
to be an empty dress. Winter
hung high enough up in the tree
to resemble a ghost.
One about to deliver
a string of pearls, from branch to branch.
Descending like a frost to earth as it clings
to the barren braches.
*
As if snow were the cat’s meow.
You step forward.
Like winter can’t be winter with the sun.
You curl towards the fire.
As we growl and whimper.
We’re tired. We retire.
Like two dogs going home.
Like two dogs at home.

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5 Responses to “Two Dogs at Home”

  1. extrasimile Says:

    Anna, that whimpering and growling may be the key here. I’m not sure I agree with you that this poem is stark to the end. ‘What conscious scoundrels,’ may be a recommendation. I’ll have to think about this some more.

  2. Anna Mark Says:

    This is, indeed, a bone chilling and deathly poem. I am compelled by the images: the clarity of something cold being like a flame, winter pretending to be an empty dress (a wedding dress, no less, in barren branches), and the two dogs before the fire, tired, whimpering and growling, an interesting combination. Stark to the end.

  3. John Stevens Says:

    Revisiting the poem … I hear that third voice now. Plus of course a fourth voice – your response above; and my own. Quite a cacophony already! Wait til the dogs bark!

  4. extrasimile Says:

    Hi John—
    The text in the quotes started out as a way to incorporate a third voice into the poem—the voice of the ‘master’. It was really just a way to fracture the text a little more, to play around with the ‘making sense’ process. The idea was to have it fit into the narrative in a loose, tangential way. As I worked on the poem—and really this is the ultimate justification for it—I began to think I could use it as part of a new poem [which I may or may not write]. In fact, this whole thing became a kind of examination of the process that I go through when writing a poem: the two ‘dogs’ feeling their way through the words in the quotes, together with the day to day experience of going out for a walk…except for the what I’d like to think reasonably plausible possibility that the dogs are dying—or dead. Or that the master is dying. Or that they are all mourning the death of the master’s wife (we are still near St Lucy’s day and the long shadow cast by the Donne poem)—hence the concern for the wedding dress flapping about in the breeze. Hence the line ‘what conscious scoundrels.’—for, let’s ask, who in fact does that refer to? It must mean, the play of the words on the dark, right? It certainly can’t be the dogs themselves now, can it?

  5. John Stevens Says:

    Please help Jim. Are the phrases in inverted commas quotations from another source? There’s a reference to ‘his poem’ – so, does this refer to a specific poem or known poet?
    Otherwise, I can hear two voices, partly echoing each other and partly correcting each other – and I can feel the cold in the air and in my bones!


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