For Mary Oliver Who Loved Dogs
We are learning new things
about the history of dog bones,
how they permeate the soil
on every continent, a gauge
of the manner in which civilizations
have flourished and failed, burying
their own bones beside them.
The collective souls of canine
beings – wolves and chihuahua,
beagles and basset, mixed breeds
and the paperless hound – form a cool
gray layer that only those who’ve
fallen in love with them ever sense
or see. It’s in our marrow, saturating
the pulp of existence.
We’ve always loved them, even
as they crouched on the perimeters
of pre-historic fires, inching forward,
cowering on bellies that kissed
the cold ground, stealing bits of skin
and meat while humans slept under
There’s a reluctant crow stuck in my throat,
unable or unwilling to recognize my face.
How could he not remember these acid-etched
furrows, this cute pink nose, such rosy cheeks
and a head the shape of a cube? He’s not trying,
that’s all. Sad bird. If I can remember the way
that green bottle flies entered the dead man’s mouth
at the river when I was 8, their drone-like metallic
buzzing, the way the lemon sun felt on my neck,
and the excitement when we pulled up obsidian
glass shards from the bottom of the gravel pit,
then why can’t this crow remember me? Perhaps
he harbors some gene for resilience, or experienced
a traumatic avian childhood with blood-drenched
scenes that he can’t get out of his head: witnessing
a bald eagle being shot from the sky, or seeing
his father murdered? Hundreds of articles
documenting the intelligence of crows and cousins
of crows, feathered beings worthy of scientific literature,
of behavioral antics that defy description: Betty,
a New Caledonian, picks up a piece of wire
in her cage, uses an object to bend it, like a junior
engineer, into a hooked tool that she uses to lift
a chunk of scrumptious pig heart up into her beak.
Instead, I have the special crow, the one who doesn’t
fit the mold, the one who grew up just like me.
John Dorroh’s poetry has appeared in about 75 journals, including Feral, Dime Show Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Os Pressan, and Selcouth Station. He also writes short fiction and the occasional rant.