Excerpts > Fall 2001, 75th Anniversary Celebration and Conference Issue

Joyce Carol Oates
Abandoned Dog

Abandoned Dog

Between one and none there is an infinity.

Where human speech fails,
a dog will abruptly appear.

Trotting beside us at evening,
a German shepherd with frayed fabric collar
and no metal tags, panting, joyous,
crazed tail thumping,
for what's a dog without a master?
for what's a dog without a name to be shouted?
He licks our hands, he breaks away
ecstatic to race in circles
in a fresh-mown field barking loudly
This is crucial, only look!
He's a hunter yes he's a good dog
He's a lunatic rushing at magpies as
effortlessly they rise on plastic-looking wings
and the German shepherd wheels
and races, lunges
and lurches,
and barks his heart near to bursting
and this goes on, and on
beside the wind-rippled Corrib River
(north of Galway)
and afterward in waning wet sun
in northerly gusts
bringing tears to our eyes
as the German shepherd races
in more frantic circles, as magpies
rise and seem to depart, yet return
and the German shepherd is panting
in steamy breaths crossing the field
to us eager and joyous Here you are! Here
I am! Now all is perfect.

Trotting close behind us sniffing our heels
and now proudly beside us, a noble dog,
now leading the way as if (the three of us)
we've gone this way many times
And how happy we are
tail a deranged metronome beating beating
to what tune we can't guess

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