I love my dog but not enough, or not
the right way--he's a dog and I'm only
10 years old and if I ever learn how
it won't be, I'll bet, by growing older.
We're pals but we're just too different but
I think we love each other and I think
he thinks it, too, if he thinks. He can feel,
that much I know, and he's superior
in a lot of ways--for one, his smeller
is better than mine, and maybe his hearing, too.
I could have him fixed so that he won't run
off in the night to some female-dog and
get her with pups. I'm not sure how that works
--I guess I could go with him, to watch, but
if it's anything like the way he eats
I won't get too close or try to pet him
because he growls. One time I snapped at him
for scaring me and he lowered his head
and wagged his tail and then I felt cruel
and went off by myself and cried. Just who's
the animal now, I howled between sobs.
But he sniffed me out or tracked my bawling
and we were friends again. He had that look
of I can't help it but you can't do that.
Sometimes when I'm doing my homework and
he jumps on the bed and gets in my way
then I bark Bad dog or it's the way I
say it and he looks hurt, but it's just sense
he doesn't have, or I don't. So that's how.
Lower Middle Class
I've got my dog here on the bed with me
as I read a comic book and listen
to the team lose another baseball game.
It's Friday night and I don't have to do
nothin'--I did my homework in study hall
and there hasn't been much rain so the grass
won't need mowing for a few more days. God
on Sunday, if I go to church, and for
tomorrow there's a trek with the dog back
to the creek that flows into the river.
We'll follow it on down--I'll tramp along
the bank and the dog will take to the mud
and we'll meet up at the dirt road, where he'll
come out and shake himself nearly dry and
get me wet. I'll say, Oh, shit, Caesar, but
not in anger; I won't be pleased either,
but he reads me well, he knows a nuance
when I bark one at him. He's a good boy.
Then we'll walk the dirt road to the main
highway and up the right side of the road,
scramble up the hill and take to the path
that winds to the front of the house by way
of the shade from the live oak trees. I'll dump
the warm and antsy water from his dish
and give Caesar fresh. While he laps I'll pet
him. When he's done I'll get on all fours--he
thinks that's funny, I can tell--and drink my
full from the spigot. Then we'll go inside.
I'll sneak him a hot dog or a sausage.
We'll go upstairs to my attic bedroom
and turn on the fan and get on the bed
and lie down and nap. Then we'll come downstairs
and I'll let him outside and have some lunch.
We've got no plans for afterward. Maybe
Father and Mother will get lost. They'll go
shopping or looking at houses they can't
afford. They're teachers and they dream a lot
--I hate to say it but it's the damned truth.
I may throw the ball for Caesar to fetch, though
he's too smart to do the work of bringing
it back and it's too hot anyway now.
We'll drink some more water and come inside
and go upstairs and siesta a while
and it will soon be time for supper. When
I'm grown I'll be too busy to have dogs
or children or a wife. I want to be
a doctor or a lawyer or maybe
a hobo. Actually, I'm happy here
--why spoil it? But if I go to college
I'll have to leave. Can't take Caesar with me
so he'll be stuck with Father and Mother.
They'll get older together. I'll come home
for holidays--maybe for a weekend
or two. The old folks love each other but
Caesar doesn't have anyone. I'll get
out of college and find a job and
take him with me, I guess, but it won't be
the same, and then he'll die. In dog years, he's
getting on as it is. One day he'll die
and I'll find him and bury him and and that
dead look on his face that says that he's seen
everything, even though he hasn't, and
even though he's just a dog, because he's
seen death. I'll see him seeing what he's seen
and then bury him and probably cry
or cry before and during and after.
Next day I'll go to work and look forward
to seeing him when I get home but then
remember that he's dead. That's what life is.
If he can live with that then so can I.
Gale Acuff has published poetry in Ascent, Chiron Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Poem, Adirondack Review, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, Slant, Nebo, Arkansas Review, South Dakota Review, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry, all from BrickHouse Press: Buffalo Nickel, The Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives.