American Life in Poetry: Column 512


I’ve read lots of poems about the loss of beloved pets, but this one by J.T. Ledbetter, who lives in California, is an especially fine and sensitive one.

Elegy for Blue

Someone must have seen an old dog
dragging its broken body through
the wet grass;
someone should have known it was lost,
drinking from the old well, then lifting
its head to the wind off the bottoms,
and someone might have wanted that dog
trailing its legs along the ground
like vines sliding up the creek
searching for sun;
but they were not there when the dog
wandered through Turley’s Woods looking
for food and stopped beneath the thorn trees
and wrapped its tail around its nose
until it was covered by falling leaves
that piled up and up
until there was no lost dog at all
to hear the distant voice calling
through the timber,
only a tired heart breathing slower,
and breath, soft as mist, above the leaves.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2012 by J. T. Ledbetter, from his most recent book of poems, Old and Lost Rivers, Lost Horse Press, 2012. Poem reprinted by permission of J. T. Ledbetter and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2019 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.