'The Revenant' by Billy Collins
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I was searching for dog poems that struck a chord with me and found this one:
The Revenant by Billy Collins.
I had just stopped crying after finding another break-your-heart poem about losing your dog. Our two dogs are thankfully still with us and I know I will have to cross that bridge one day. But not yet.
So I started reading this poem. The opening line nearly set me off again. And then I read the fourth line and laughed. The poem is sad but it's unusual - unsentimental - and I wanted to continue reading.
See what you make of it . . .
by Billy Collins
I am the dog you put to sleep,
as you like to call the needle of oblivion,
come back to tell you this simple thing:
I never liked you - not one bit.
When I licked your face,
I thought of biting off your nose.
When I watched you toweling yourself dry,
I wanted to leap and unman you with a snap.
I resented the way you moved,
your lack of animal grace,
the way you would sit in a chair and eat,
a napkin on your lap, knife in your hand.
I would have run away,
but I was too weak, a trick you taught me
while I was learning to sit and heel,
and - greatest of insults - shake hands without a hand.
I admit the sight of the leash
would excite me
but only because it meant I was about
to smell things you had never touched.
You do not want to believe this,
but I have no reason to lie.
I hated the car, the rubber toys,
disliked your friends and, worse, your relatives.
The jingling of my tags drove me mad.
You always scratched me in the wrong place.
All I ever wanted from you
was food and fresh water in my metal bowls.
While you slept, I watched you breathe
as the moon rose in the sky.
It took all my strength
not to raise my head and howl.
Now I am free of the collar,
the yellow raincoat, monogrammed sweater,
the absurdity of your lawn,
and that is all you need to know about this place
except what you already supposed
and are glad it did not happen sooner -
that everyone here can read and write,
the dogs in poetry, the cats and the others in prose.
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