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Poems
0204 Every Dog Will Have His Night
MS (8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)

0204 Every Dog Will Have His Night

The prick of tears around the eye when reading poetry
is reassuring - that despite what happened
this morning, yesterday, in childhood,
in your last life, whatever -
you're still human.

Philip Levine - whose poems prick my eyes
so often that I'd like to think him
to be the heart of America
or ought to be,
reckons that man is the only animal
that has visionary power.
But I wonder. Can't do more than that; but wonder nevertheless:

my dog,
who lays him down on the hearth at night
with a sigh that shakes his whole body,
as if he's not planning to do anything between sleep and wake,
twitches his hind legs in dream;
and I, unimaginatively, assume he's chasing rabbits -
too intense a twitching for just some playful thrown ball:
does he catch them, or like in my dreams,
get further and further away, the harder he tries?

But psychologists of the human mind
reckon that dreams are the sewage farms
of emotion: cleansing the mind of fears
(and, it seems, for an astonishingly high percentage of Britons,
having a very friendly afternoon tea with the Queen...) .

Which suggests that those chases of failure or perhaps ideal success
that my dog dreams, cleanse emotions too
- and who can doubt, seeing his dog hang his head in shame,
with that strange straightness of the neck like human spine
which can touch his master's heart like nothing else,
who can doubt that dogs have emotions? -
imply that dogs could have ideals
(and am I God, or just
the leader of his pack - how do I, then, measure up?) .
And if they have emotions, and ideals, then
should we not enquire of them more closely
what is dreamt of in their philosophy?

My dog, haunched here beside me,
looks up at me with liquid brown eyes
brimming with faith, hope, and love;
trusting that I'll make the right decision about all this.

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Comments (2)

How totally lovely - an essay that reaches around the world and scratches behind the ears.
Super. Reminds me of poor dear mad wise Christopher Smart's poem about his cat Geoffroy and 'the living God'.