American Life in Poetry: Column 578

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

I can't help wishing that dogs lived as long as we do. I have buried a number of them, and it doesn't get any easier. In fact, it gets harder. Here's Mark Vinz, a Minnesota poet, from his book Permanent Record and Other Poems, from Red Dragonfly Press.

The Way We Said Goodbye

So many years later, the old dog
still circles, head lowered, crippled by
arthritis, nearly blind, incontinent.
We repeat the litany, as if we need
convincing that the end is right.

I'll get her an ice cream cone if you'll
drive her to the vet, my wife says.
So there we sit on the front steps
with our friend, and in the car, as always,
when she senses the doctor's office
drawing near, she moans and tries to
burrow underneath the seats.

What remains, the memory of how
she taught us all the way we need
to learn to live with wasting.
There we sit, together, one last time
as all that sweetness slowly disappears.


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 ©2015 by Mark Vinz, “The Way We Said Goodbye,” from Permanent Record & Other Poems, (Red Dragonfly Press, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Mark Vinz 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.