American Life in Poetry: Column 560

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

The only times I feel truly homicidal are when I see somebody abusing a pet, and I was glad to find this poem so I could get that off my chest. But don’t ever even think about taking a kick at my old dog, Howard. Wesley McNair lives in Maine and is that state’s poet laureate. This is from his book Lovers of the Lost, from David R. Godine. His most recent book is The Lost Child: Ozark Poems, (Godine, 2014).

The Puppy

From down the road, starting up
and stopping once more, the sound
of a puppy on a chain who has not yet
discovered he will spend his life there.
Foolish dog, to forget where he is
and wander until he feels the collar
close fast around his throat, then cry
all over again about the little space
in which he finds himself. Soon,
when there is no grass left in it
and he understands it is all he has,
he will snarl and bark whenever
he senses a threat to it.
Who would believe this small
sorrow could lead to such fury
no one would ever come near him?


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by Wesley McNair, “The Puppy,” from Lovers of the Lost: New & Selected Poems, (David R. Godine, 2010). Poem reprinted by permission of Wesley McNair and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2018 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.