Poems about chickens, cats, dogs

I have never written a successful poem about a pet or even an animal.  I’ve written a few poems about chickens since I’ve always had hens, but none that even came close to really feeling like they worked.  I admire animal poems and I read dog poems, cat poems even chicken poems beside wheelbarrows, but it still feels strangely out of reach.  This poem has a tone that is both sad and resigned at the same time. Neruda is a high standard.

A Dog Has Died

BY PABLO NERUDA

TRANSLATED BY ALFRED YANKAUER

My dog has died.

I buried him in the garden

next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I’ll join him right there,

but now he’s gone with his shaggy coat,

his bad manners and his cold nose,

and I, the materialist, who never believed

in any promised heaven in the sky

for any human being,

I believe in a heaven I’ll never enter.

Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom

where my dog waits for my arrival

waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

Ai, I’ll not speak of sadness here on earth,

of having lost a companion

who was never servile.

His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine

withholding its authority,

was the friendship of a star, aloof,

with no more intimacy than was called for,

with no exaggerations:

he never climbed all over my clothes

filling me full of his hair or his mange,

he never rubbed up against my knee

like other dogs obsessed with sex.

No, my dog used to gaze at me,

paying me the attention I need,

the attention required

to make a vain person like me understand

that, being a dog, he was wasting time,

but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,

he’d keep on gazing at me

with a look that reserved for me alone

all his sweet and shaggy life,

always near me, never troubling me,

and asking nothing.

Ai, how many times have I envied his tail

as we walked together on the shores of the sea

in the lonely winter of Isla Negra

where the wintering birds filled the sky

and my hairy dog was jumping about

full of the voltage of the sea’s movement:

my wandering dog, sniffing away

with his golden tail held high,

face to face with the ocean’s spray.

Joyful, joyful, joyful,

as only dogs know how to be happy

with only the autonomy

of their shameless spirit.

There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,

and we don’t now and never did lie to each other.

So now he’s gone and I buried him,

and that’s all there is to it.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/29680

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Published in: on September 23, 2015 at 8:48 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Good to see this poem on here. Just last week I used this, plus a couple other of his animal poems as inspiration for a lesson with my poetry writing students. Yes, PN sets the bar very high.

  2. His refusal to interact with pain is what makes this poem hurt so much. Love it. Thank you for this essay.


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