They Circled The City On Purpose

The rejection letter, an old piece of chewed meat, read, we never accept poems about dogs … never

Standing in the shadow of the peak, looking upward, I thought to myself, they must also mean no children with ripped skin, or butterflies on my head, or frozen breath at the edge of night

No insights into the twisting earth as the hot white hands of solar explosions drive us away, down into deeper holes

No running over ghosts in the old church graveyard, the ruin across the street, no far away sex in the dawn light like neither one of us is there

Yet, last night the rain storm came and we built a fire, the dog and I, our flames 7,500 feet high

Missa Him lay her head in my lap and her chest was rapid, struggling against the air, and as is my wont, I thought about death, about how she might have heart disease, kidney failure, a tumor

Death, how can I drive it away, how can I keep it out of my mind, since it is not fit for a poem, surely death is akin to dogs, we never print poems about death … never

Cradled inside of me, the times I almost died, the fevers, the injuries, the exploding heart, the men with guns, but I didn’t and so I lived to write this poem, a poem about dogs, my thoughts on dogs as we drove across the top of the mountain along the world’s most dangerous road

We left the French checkpoint and it was a clear day, white clouds in the sunlight and I lifted my eyes to the tops of the pines and watched them move in the breeze and I thought about how the last two convoys were shelled and there was never any method to the madness of the guns and it would start and people would die and the city had become alcoholic and people would walk half drunk, half mad along suicide alley, facing the hills and the burned-out buildings just beyond

They would do it on purpose, on purpose, how could that be, on purpose, and it is easy to understand, doing things on purpose, self-destruction, irrational words, and I knew one man who went crazy and said he was just going out now to walk his dog down suicide alley, and they shot them both, him and his dog, and they lay in the street for hours, maybe days, I can’t remember, it was a Collie, I didn’t like Collies, never did, they were too regal for me, what was one to do with all that hair, and when night came they got the man, but left the dog and the dog rotted on the street and no one cared, there was no reason to care, the understanding between dog and people had been violated, and no one cared and everything was done on purpose, on purpose

As I crossed the top of the mountain and headed down into the city, waiting for the cannon fire, I thought about the dead dog and wondered if it was still there, on that fine day as the convoy slowly made its way down into the valley and toward the city

I thought about the dog more than anything else, more than the pines or the clean, cool air, I felt alive just focusing on the dead dog, I wanted to see if it was still in the alley, I didn’t want to die on the road, I only wanted to see the body of the dog once again, I had a purpose, everything on purpose, on purpose as the wheels turned and the music played and the drivers smoked pot along the edge of the mountain road taking us into the encircled city

12 thoughts on “They Circled The City On Purpose

  1. Duke,
    Being a dog lover I find this piece very touching, sad and moving . We all know that many of us care more for our dogs than some distant cousins or people we know, and that unconditional love is very, very real. I’d keep going on but I have to take my rescue puppy , Dash , a Shih Tzu , for his walk at the park . He told me to say hi to you and that he Ruffs you !!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Can’t imagine why any respectable journal or paper wouldn’t publish poems about dogs, Duke. Especially this one. Before the pandemic, I liked walking my dog around the town reservoir, which includes a little manmade beach used in July and August by people with kids. In other months, it’s an unofficial dog park. Also, before the pandemic, the town would maintain the beach. But this summer, it’s all closed and fenced off, and when the dog and I walk past, we can see the remains of a coyote under a tree. It’s been there a while, and it makes me sad every time I see it. Still, I feel compelled to look.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Mary,

      We are still kicking. “I feel compelled to look,” is the operative sentence in your comment. Those who look and find something in the sight are enriched. One can’t unforget death: the vessel, the twist of dying, a foreshadowing, a sense of loss, a sense of being. I think that is why I am odd to others, but these days I don’t care. I really don’t. I am doing my own dying and so fuck it. Nothing to be done and so I concentrate on Missa Him and the weather. Good luck Mary, we all need it and I believe in luck more than god. Let us now bow our heads and take a chance. Love. Duke

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Duke, and yes, death is always there. I think we need luck, and God, and love. And dogs. It doesn’t feel like time to die yet, and I hope we don’t for a while. Love, Mary

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I never had a dog, I had hamsters and a cat. My cat was the love of my life. I couldn’t love him more than if I had given birth to him. When I see suffering or dead animals, I think of his suffering. God forgive me, but I have a harder time feeling the suffering if humans. Maybe it’s because they can rationalize what’s happening. Animals cannot; they only know they’re in pain and scared and they don’t know why. To feel suffering of a human, I have to imagine it happening to an animal to get the right emotion. I know, I’m horrible. I think what hurts so much is that with our pets, we see their whole life, from baby to old man. How can your baby be an old man?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Hot,

      So we are exactly alike. I think there is much correct about what you say. I have had the honor of thinking these kinds of thoughts on terrible ground. The anonymous death of people holds little moment for us, but the death of our dear pet is a suffering only we can understand. Why are pets more important than some people? If I believed in god, I’d ask her. Otherwise, I simply say, there is nothing to be done. Thanks and good luck. Duke

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Reading your comments as well as your poem, I am struck by one remark, a question, really: why are pets more important than some people? It strikes me it’s a question of love. I certainly love our pets more than a lot of people I know only vaguely.

    That doesn’t really mean I think the pets are more important, but they are certainly more important to me. Still, if push came to shove and I had to save one or the other, I’d probably pt for the human as I feel a stronger bond to my own species.

    I just read recently that collies are the smartest dogs. I wouldn’t have thought it as their heads are so narrow. So Timmy was right. Lassie was the smartest dog in the world.

    I like you dog, war, and remembrance poem, Duke! You have the rare ability to be sentimental without being schmaltzy!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Expose the nonsensical chaos of the world, simultaneously attempting to unravel the snarled yarn of its irrationality. A noble feat, if one can pull it off. And, you nearly do; more so, at least, than anyone I know.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I don’t know what to say this is just amazing. Is this poem your life now or is it a memory. It is so beautiful in its directness. War, death, disease all part of the circle. I love our dog deeply, I have loved her this way and all our dogs and cats. Yes she is better than most humans but that’s the hard part. I find this poem deeply unsettling and that is good you have made me think . Be safe you and Missa Him.💜💜💜

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Dot. This is my old life. I have a new one now, here in Mexico. The plague is raging while the Narcos kill everything in sight. I walk Missa Him in the foothills of the mountains above the town. I recall all of this and it appears in my sleep and waking moments. If we are lucky, we get to choose our path and so it has been with me. Good luck. Duke

      Like

      1. I wish you all the best, my you and Missa Him be blessed with peace and good health. It a harsh place you live with drugs and virus there is not much choice is there. I send you both good vibes 💜

        Liked by 1 person

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