Sarah: Be careful. You’re a man who makes people afraid, and that’s dangerous.
The Stranger: It’s what people know about themselves inside that makes ’em afraid.
Based on your comments today, I thought you’d like this poem. The intro is written by Mr. Ted Kooser:
Maybe you have to be a poet to get away with sniffing the paws of a dog, and I have sniffed the paws of all of mine, which almost always smell like hayfields in sunlight. Here Jane Varley, who lives in Ohio, offers us a touching last moment with a dear friend.
Packing the Car for Our Western Camping Trip
What we will remember—we tried to take the dog,
packed around him, making a cozy spot
at the back of the Subaru, blocking out the sun,
resisting the obvious—
he was too old, he would not make it.
And when he died in Minnesota,
we smelled and smelled his paws,
arthritic and untouchable these last many years,
took those marvelous paws up into our faces.
They smelled of dark clay
and sweet flower bloom decay.
American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2009 by Jane Varley, whose most recent book is a memoir, Flood Stage and Rising, University of Nebraska Press, 2005. Poem reprinted from Poems & Plays, No. 16, 2009, by permission of Jane Varley and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.
I had a romantic notion of sorts, naive though it was, tha Zo would give us some obvious sign that it was time to go. Instead, he fought death to the end, past the point where he could properly squat to do his business. He had peed like a girl for ages, but the last few months, he couldn’t bend his back legs to get his butt out of his own way. “It’s time,” we’d think, and then he’d chase a bunny at full speed, just to show us he still had some life. The last weekend, he drew the senior citizen trifecta: senile, incontinent, and deaf in one ear, couldn’t hear out of the other. Standing was asking too much, so he laid on the vet’s floor, half on a blanket, half on my lap, waiting for the bad news. I’m not sure what I expected: a sigh, heaviness, some sign of giving up. But he just lay there, still. And when Dr V. administered 10 cc of pentobarbital, the only thing that changed was that then I could smell his paws.
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