What can I say, Wolf?
I’ve never owned any pets.
Too much overhead, too much work,
oh, and also because of slavery.
Yes Wolf; I mentioned pet ownership
and slavery in the same breath,
but it’s not like you’re gonna call me on it;
you’re just a dumb dog,
one that’s been dead
for nearly thirty years.
But fine, I remember those soulful eyes,
so I’ll try to explain it.
There’s something to be said of those
unlucky in birth who persevere
against all odds
to overthrow their oppressors in triumph.
Americans especially love these
as our recorded history is full of them.
But what of the other stories?
With Tubman, Douglass, and The Amistad
as outliers of four-hundred years of
with all the standard rape, abuse, and
outright murdering of slaves too stupid
to mask their intelligence,
how many stories of the voiceless do we know?
It’s weird, Wolf. You were a dog – a beautiful
German Shepherd/Doberman Pinscher mix
– but when I think of all the voiceless slaves
who were born and died in
I think of you.
To be honest, Wolf,
I haven’t thought of you in ages,
and that’s a shame, but
the less remembered
of your tragic life and death,
the better for me.
Or perhaps not; after all,
I’ve left your memory as it were, untamed,
but there it sits upon my return,
only for me.
What if my sidestepping your legacy
is but one more injustice for you?
Our lives were intertwined for so long,
with much of the trauma descendent
directly from my ancestors in bondage.
You weren’t even my damn dog,
but I was your reluctant caretaker,
and there’s nothing poetic about
feeding you and cleaning up your shit,
but I felt your loyalty
and your agony in-kind.
Wolf, you were an idiot of a dog,
raised on ignorance and cruelty,
and yet you were still sweet and loyal.
I’d given up on hiding grandma’s tools
of discipline, as she’d just find herself
a sturdier switch to snap on ya,
but I taught you to sit using head-rubs
instead of grandma’s rubber hose;
you were always a good boy.
I wish I had told you that more.
I remember you having the audacity
to demand more head-rubs from me,
swatting at my hand with your paw
like Bunky the cat taught you,
and I happily gave them to you.
I wish I’d given you all the head-rubs.
But I’d graduated the basement
and fled to the Navy,
making the cut despite the odds.
I heard of your fate secondhand,
and I wept real tears over a freaking dog
that I didn’t even own
who lived his entire existence
chained to a waterpipe
in a half-finished basement,
life snuffed-out, most likely,
by someone well-known and trusted.
Can you imagine that?
I’ve never cared for any pets.
Too much overhead,
too much work,
just too much.
NaPoWriMo Day 29: Today’s prompt:
And now for our daily prompt (optional, as always). Today, I challenge you to write a paean to the stalwart hero of your household: your pet. Sing high your praises and tell the tale of Kitty McFluffleface’s ascension of Mt. Couch. Let us hear how your intrepid doggo bravely answers the call to adventure whenever the leash jingles.
If you don’t have a pet, perhaps you know one or remember one who deserves to be immortalized in verse. For inspiration, I direct you to a selection from an 18th-century poem by Christopher Smart, Jubilate Agno, in which the poet’s praise for his cat ranges from “For he is docile and can learn certain things” all the way up to “For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.” Personally, I’m lucky if my cat doesn’t just sleep the day away, but I find her pretty delightful all the same.
This was painful to write, and I nearly scrapped the whole thing. I kept trying to walk away from it, but it kept calling me back.
It’s unpolished, and I won’t be revisiting it at all, but Wolf deserves to have his story told.