Poem of the Week, by Jack Gilbert

Pete in first snow, 2011That 30-pound wonder to the left there, in that tiny photo, is, variously, Sweet Pete, Pete, Petey, Pedro, Peter, and Little Guy. He has been, variously, captivating, surprising, startling, annoying, tiring, and delighting us for 12 years now. He’s one of those dogs you sometimes wish weren’t as smart as he is. I remember, back when we first got him, watching him observe people opening the door to the kitchen, a door that we kept closed in order to keep him out of there. When he thought no one was in the room (I was stealth-sitting in a far corner), he jumped up, braced his front legs on the door, and began batting at the knob with his right paw until presto, the door opened, whereupon he raced into the kitchen and gobbled down an entire cooling rack of oatmeal scotchies in the 2.5 seconds it took me to race in there after him. He has taught himself how to do many, many other things in the intervening years. He can read my mind and I can read his. Right now he’s asleep at my feet, having ascertained the situation: She’s tapping at the thing again. She’s still in her pajamas. In about an hour she’ll put on her jeans and sweatshirt and come at me with the leash. I might as well take a nap until then. When I read this poem by Jack Gilbert, who is one of my favorite poets, I thought, you know what? If we have to come back to this world, coming back as a dog might not be so bad.

– Jack Gilbert

I never thought Michiko would come back
after she died. But if she did, I knew
it would be as a lady in a long white dress.
It is strange that she has returned
as somebody’s Dalmation. I meet
the man walking her on a leash
almost every week. He says good morning
and I stoop down to calm her. He said
once that she was never like that with
other people. Sometimes she is tethered
on their lawn when I go by. If nobody
is around, I sit on the grass. When she
finally quiets, she puts her head in my lap
and we watch each other’s eyes as I whisper
in her soft ears. She cares nothing about
the mystery. She likes it best when
I touch her head and tell her small
things about my days and our friends.
That makes her happy the way it always did.


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For more on Jack Gilbert, please click here.

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