From time to time, Love, Dog will be reprinting a selection of classic canine literature in Howler’s Hill—excerpts from great novels or memoirs, short stories or essays, poems. For our first offering, we’re thrilled to share with you a poem from one of our favorite writers (and dog-lovers), Jim Harrison. Though he is perhaps best known for penning novels and novellas, including such classics as Legends of the Fall, Harrison considered poetry his most beloved art form, saying, “Poetry, at its best, is the language your soul would speak if you could teach your soul to speak.” Here, Harrison uses that language of the soul to try—and fail—to be a dog.
I envied the dog lying in the yard
so I did it. But there was a pebble
under my flank so I got up and looked
for the pebble, brushed it away
and lay back down. My dog thus far
overlooked the pebble. I guess it’s her thick
Lab fur. With my head downhill the blood gorged
me with ideas. Not good. Got up. Turned around. Now I
see hundreds of infinitesimal ants. I’m on an
ant home. I get up and move five feet.
The dog hasn’t moved from her serene place.
Now I’m rather too near a thicket where
I saw a big black snake last week that might decide
to join me. I moved near the actual dog this time
but she got up and went under the porch. She doesn’t like
it when I’m acting weird. I’m failing as a dog
when my own kind rejects me, but doing better
than when I envied birds, the creature the least
like us, therefore utterly enviable. To be sure
I cheeped a lot but didn’t try to fly.
We humans can take off but are no good at landing.
This poem originally appeared in DEAD MAN’S FLOAT, published by Copper Canyon Press.