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I Swear He Was Laughing, Poems About Dogs (Mostly) Who Only THINK They Are People, But Aren't, So Can't Read This Book, So Will You Please Read It For Them


Like Cats and Dogs

Grampa had this joke - he'd reach for my nose
with a growl, yell "GOT IT!" and snatch away
his hand, then, beaming, show me his fist
with the tip of the thumb exposed between
index and middle finger - "See - there it is!"
 
I'd loved my dog for years, but felt almost faint
with tenderness the first time he snatched at me
with his snout - in play - growling,
and clacked his teeth together just a hair
short of my nose-tip. Then, to be sure
I got the joke, he licked me - and laughed.
(It's a look, no haha, just a tongue-heavy
bright-eyed panting.)
 
Years later we had a feisty black & white kitten -
smaller than my hand, but each night as I lay in bed,
he'd attack any exposed hand - again and again,
clasping it with all four needled paws,
ready to sink in his teeth if not dislodged.
Tired of tossing him away, I began to wear
an old kitchen glove and let him tear away at it
each night until he tired of the game.
But the first leg out of bed each morning
found itself encumbered by a bit of black and white
fuzz clinging to the ankle.
 
This was one tough kitten. It even attacked the dog -
leapt at him from around chairs, from above, from behind.
Oh-oh, I thought, and pulled the 60-pound dog away,
lest one swipe of his paw destroy the kitten.
 
One morning Pam called me into the hall to see
dog and kitten fighting - not fighting, but
rolling around roughhousing each other. Or rather,
the cat may have been fighting (later both the dog's
punctured ears needed lancing and stitching and were
crooked ever after), but the dog was playing.
He'd open his crocodile jaws around the entire
head and shoulders, then snap them shut
just missing, not touching a single kitten whisker.
The kitten clung to his tail, his legs (one at a time),
made chirpy snarls, hissed, scratched, and that dog
rolled, squirmed, tail-thumped, snapped and growled and
laughed like mad, I swear he was laughing,
 
but you may say, well, they LOOK like they're
laughing, it's that long toothy jaw, that dab
of pink tongue, but dogs can't laugh. OK,
but I hope no one ever has YOU for a grampa.


Short Selections:

Hard to sit on the grass
When the dog is with me. He always
Tries to lick my face. And I always
Say "Back!" or "Down!"--which, in
Dog, translates to "No, Honey,
I'm just not in the mood tonight."


Ill-bred dog! I've never met you before,
Yet you bound into my lap,
Committing forepaw upon forepaw.

Dogs sweat through their tongues.
I'm being licked on the cheek
by a dog's armpit.

Each time I look at the dog
he's dead
in a new position.

In the park, from a distance,
I say hello to a girl, who says
Hello back, not that we want
To know each other, but it's the least
We can do while our dogs
Sniff each other's behinds.

  Big Cats in Snow
Tuesday, July 11, 2000