Dog Number One
Though these were the times he most enjoyed
the plopping about
the jousting with his other selves
lashing each other with, what seemed, a thousand tails
rolling in beside that white hot flame
which was the great master of them all,
begging a touch, or a smile, or a bone
they could scramble for beneath his feet
But duty would call, and these moments
of frivolity were all too few.
The necessity to guard the gate
to stand upon the river’s edge
and let those only in whose shadows
had been lost or left behind,
to see to the landing of the boats
that the old man rowed
and nip the stragglers
in their feet
kept him ever alert
ever ready to leap, and snarl,
at the barest suggestion of a command.
Though a dog is a dog
his entire integrity was based
upon this premise
that his purpose was to separate
the dead from the living
the world of light
from the world of darkness.
neither biblical, nor Greek, nor Norse,
could have desired
more meaning from its existence.
So why tear
at one’s prey
when a mere display of teeth
sends them sprawling?
And why bite, when a bark is enough?
Why growl when one swag of a tail
is sufficient to assert the authority
of that indelible, insuperable strength?
He waved his heads
at the horizon,
each in joint agreement with the other
rolled in the pumice
as he waded in the cool assuaging swirl
at the river’s black edge.
Then, when he heard the call
he was running.