DOG AT THE FARM
Of the three dogs
she was no one’s favorite,
even her name—Kitty—a contradiction
that confused the grandchildren
tripping over their early words.
You’d stumble on her, too, late at night
on the front porch where she dozed,
more obstacle than protector.
Once, sleeping beneath
the pickup’s wheels, she got run over
by Freddie Lee, her amiable owner.
She lay in pain and somehow didn’t die,
persisting doggedly. Afterwards,
one tooth splayed from her mouth,
sideways, almost vampirically.
Her lopsided face forged to
a slavering smile, she clambered
round the yard, her fetid breath
stinking, as always, to high heaven.
If she was a source of humor,
the humor disguised pity, and the pity love,
since all the time you knew she knew
how little she was needed,
and so you felt her, every time again
she was ignored, make herself small,
accept her lot. In the shift,
in her bright flecked brown eyes,
from hopefulness to resignation
one sensed her memory
of that fierce substrate
that gives curses power.
All the while she told us, in her way,
what we were, in our needless own, made of,
as when, finally, you would give in
and scratch the begging ears and side
till, given over to her bliss,
her legs splayed in the air,
all dignity surrendered,
her half-ruined self sloughed off
all but the truest form of self,
the one we most know, least respect,
the body asking love.
—from Rattle #60, Summer 2018
Timothy DeJong: “Kitty, the dog in this poem, really does exist—she lives in Florence, Alabama—and she really was run over by a pickup truck. I’m happy that I was able to feature her in a poem, and the fact that I did helps clarify, for me, one reason poetry is important: reading and writing poetry teaches us to be attentive to things in a different way than we usually are. Over a long time span, I believe that practicing this sort of attention offers an ethical, healthy way of relating to the world and understanding our own place in it.” (web)