Chester

His eye is on me constantly
From the cushion where he lies.
Does my guilt detect a whimper
In his intermittent sighs?

His spaniel eye too readily
Reflects his spaniel gene,
And I can see too readily
His long lost spaniel dream

Where in prairie, field, or wood
His natural quarry go...
Where he starts the partridge, fox, and hare
Or stalks the startled doe.

Yet here he lies for hours
As an old man reads a book
And watches, watches quietly,
A lonely soul forsook.

My book for me does what for him
A bramble patch might do
Where odors thick as pages lurk
And every scent a clue

To the canine world of riches
Where noses better brains,
Which to deny were cruel
As to keep a man in chains.

His haunch was made for bounding,
His frantic trot for speed,
And fields should echo like a bell
Songs of his noble breed.

But I’ve never been a huntsman,
And so I’ve no excuse
For housing here this hunter.
It’s animal abuse.

He has a tiny freedom
In what I own for yard,
But if he comes too near the street,
His collar hurts him hard.

I walk him every day at three
Ten minutes round the block
Which he joyfully anticipates
And seems to know the clock.

When he dances round the closet
Where his harness-leash is hung,
I know it must be three o’clock
As though a chime had rung.

The suburb lawns we traverse
Have little he can track,
But he strains so at his harness
It’s hard to hold him back.

Scenery means nothing.
His nose is to the ground.
The fragrant world of spoor and wind
To him must be profound.

And he surely knows a richer world
Awaits him otherwhere;
The wood and field are in his blood;
Their scent rides on the air.

If our electric fence should fail,
He’d be off like a shot.
Stretching his spaniel legs for real,
No hampered harness trot.

Then he’d be finally free at last,
But likely not get far.
No one has taught him suburb,
Looming bus, or speeding car.

If he died so, ‘twould be an ending
We all might wish for too,
Doing joyfully and free,
What we were made to do.

If we were sure of what that was
As Chester seems to be,
We might be better Beings,
Doubt, mistrust, and worry free.

But we aren’t! So ground our noses
In fruitless books... for what is his,
A sure and natural knowledge
Of what our purpose is.

Perhaps he knows I’m just as lost.
The ecstasy of Being
Is not vouchsafed to many souls.
Is that the truth we’re seeing?

Not every dog will have his day.
It’s almost providential
How seldom any man or beast
Achieves his real potential.

When our eyes meet across the room
I imagine empathy.
If his situation hurts my heart,
Does he feel the same for me?

Literature calls this silly notion,
The “pathetic fallacy,”
And I surely am pathetic,
But it feels right to me.

The worst is... he forgives me
For the tightened life he lives,
A dog’s life... but almost Christian.
He forgives me. He FORGIVES!

And when I close my useless book,
He leaves his endless nap,
Comes slowly to my easy chair,
And climbs upon my lap.