Tuesday, March 25, 2008

For Three Hours Tonight I Sat With My Dog Before Having to Put Him Down

I Was Never Good to My Dog Until I Had to Put Him Down

10:30pm 3/24/08

Lately to find him in the corner, panting against a wall,

as if he were trying to prove he still had breath,

a jellied string of blood and snot from his nose, fluid stiffening

in the lungs, across the eyes like wax, paw-scratching

to push a cement truck off his snout, and some odor

that must have been his organs, purple cankers.

That he could have survived is not in doubt. You know,

assuming we know the affected area, it can be treated—but…

said the balding, butternut-squash-bodied doctor…at his age…

And in the veterinary’s Exam Room #1, the dog’s arthritic hips

tested the tile, needing to stand instead, just to breathe

and drooling bungee cords stretched to their maximum point

before needing to whoosh back up in heavy tongues of air or


Something in us that is neither human nor inhuman looks

at suffering, always for life, prefers even its briefest,

most fragile grace. Even while convulsing, the heart

murmurs, a noticeable beat. But torn.

If you could put him on the table. There will be two shots.

Hold him there. The first will numb him. There you go.

Then the second. Steady his body. Help him

lie down. Sometimes breath is held by the lungs

then suddenly released.

The doctor turned away, picking up the Y of the stethoscope,

measuring the heartbeat. Three times, picking the metallic ear up

and listening again. His eyes left and right, seeing what he could

hear. Nothing. Everything’s stopped now.

Would you like a moment by yourself with your dog?

No, I said, patting the black shag of his belly. And waited

for the doctor to leave, to press my lips against the hair-perm

crinkle of his ear, saying bark baby, bark

1 comment:

c.harris.stevens said...

sentimentality breaks this poem. the moment at which the narrator directly addresses suffering seems necessary, but unprovoked. there should be an intolerance that is eased by the statement, but the poem doesn't set up that friction. too focused on effect upon the narrator than the affectual possibilities in the poem as presented to the reader.