it’s a dog’s life: weldon kees’ canine homage




To Vincent Hugh


"This night is monstrous winter when the rats

 Swarm in great packs along the waterfront,

 When midnight closes in and takes away your name.

 And it was Rover, Ginger, Laddie, Prince;

 My pleasure hambones. Donned a collar once

 With golden spikes, the darling of a cultured home

 Somewhere between the harbor and the heights, uptown.

 Or is this something curs with lathered mouths invent?

 They had a little boy I would have bitten, had I dared.

 They threw great bones out on the balcony.

 But where? I pant at every door tonight.


 I knew this city once the way I know those lights

 Blinking in chains along the other side,

 These streets that hold the odors of my kind.

 But now, my bark a ghost in this strange scentless air,

 I am no growling cicerone or cerberus

 But wreckage for the pound, snuffling in shame

 All cold-nosed toward identity.—Rex? Ginger? No.

 A sort of panic jabbering inside begins.

 Wild for my shadow in this vacantness,

 I can at least run howling toward the bankrupt lights

 Into the traffic where bones, cats, and masters swarm.

 And where my name must be."