April 8: Shelter

(dedicated to all shelter and rescue dogs I’ve known and will continue to meet)

/~You leaned your face into the fence/curling your hand through the wires~/ (98/365.2)

Shelter

You paused outside
to look into my cage.
I tried to play it right
wanting to catch your eye
with a shy glint in my own,
a soft bark,
that said, “Choose me,”
in a canine grammar
I hoped you’d understand.

Your face held nothing
(Pity, maybe)
that let me believe
you would ever want
a dog like me.

You turned once,
twice,
a hundred times,
coming and going
the length of my cage.
(Coming and going
like you do now,
ten times a day.)
Then walked away.

I could not stand another day of
strangers coming to stare.
Passing me over for younger dogs who
knew too little to have the strange
look of longing
I could not keep from my eyes.

I could not stand another night
alone in that place
the cracked cement floor
the howls and whines that kept me sleepless
(Did you know that sound is still the one I hear
when you wake me kicking from dreams
sleeping in your bed?)

Then suddenly you were back.
I saw you glance at the card
hung at my gate–
a false name, a date of arrival,
otherwise a blank
no age, no history,
nothing,
that would let you know
I would stay with you forever
and never go.

You leaned your face into the fence
curling your hand through the wires,
blinking in the sun.
(Neither one of us so young
in the bright, Spring light
yet wanting to be.)

I let one paw
hover in the air
but looked away,
not wanting to show my eagerness,
but wanting
to find a way to tell you
that I would be a good dog
and how much I wanted to be owned.
(A dog is only half himself
without a master.
Unfinished, half-alive)

I could not move
nor speak
but when you dropped to your knees
and reached two fingers toward my fur
I let myself fall
(oh god I could not help myself)
letting my body form the words
head back, eyes closed
throat exposed,
legs flailing in the air.
“Please,” I said. “Yes, please.
Take me. Yes.”

/~I let one paw/ hover in the air/.../but wanting/ to find a way to tell you/ that I would be a good dog ~/ (YIP: 98)

— Scout, as written by R. S. Jones
from Unleashed: Poems by Writers’ Dogs, Edited by Amy Hempel and Jim Shepard

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