Poison Pie Publishing House: There is a music in the yodel of my dog

There is a music in the yodel of my dog

I actively worked to destroy my children's faith
in democratic processes, for every time
we took a family vote on acquiring a dog,
I cast the sole vote against, yet invariably I won.

But a father and a husband can only win
for so long, before winning becomes losing
and the children's lament hangs like a dirge
in the house with the mother's silence the refrain.

So, out of town on business, I finally caved
to the pleas of my son over the telephone.
There was a fair bit of Pontius Pilate in my acquiescence;
for I knew better but let the locals have their way.

Acquiescence can only go so far, for a dog,
or any extra being, in the house makes its presence felt
in a hundred different ways. I hoped only
for the impossible, for a dog unlike all other dogs:

calm, patient, born with an understanding
of the universe that eludes human beings,
or at least me. I wanted preternatural instincts
focused on creating peace in the house.

Instead, I got an ordinary dog, who had lived
five years under the rules of strangers (to me),
before unknown circumstances dictated they abandon him
at the local animal shelter. Oh, hateful, stupid dog,

You snarl at everyone. You pretend to be learning
forbearance, only to trick me into bringing you closer
to other dogs, walked by my neighbors, where you then
lunge in attack and I am forced to jerk you away

by your leash, apologizing profusely all the while.
I have learned my lesson, and it is a lesson
in misery. You cannot go out on your own.
You cannot approach neighbors, man or dog.

You sit by the window staring longingly
at the privileges you have lost. You bark madly
as the neighbor's cat struts across the porch,
taunting you in your imprisonment.

Stupid, useless schnauzer, I did not want you
for I predicted this very image. I exactly knew that you
would elicit in me only the empathy required to acknowledge
the utter meaninglessness of your pitiful existence.

I did not need to be reminded of these things.
Still, I maintain a measure of polite compassion;
I walk you when you must be walked.
I do not count out loud the days until you are gone.

I know that when relationships fail,
as yours and mine was destined to, that both parties
must share the blame--your limited, canine sentience
and my unproductive, existential pessimism.

For a year now you have shared our home. You have,
more or less equilibrated to your new surroundings.
My children are, I suppose, happy to have you. They profess
their love, when I suggest returning you to the shelter,

something, to my credit, I have not said in many months. I lost.
I lost long before you came, unwelcome, into my home.
We sit on the porch, you on a short leash, so you cannot
terrorize the children nervously passing on the sidewalk.

You have lately taken to yodeling, I don't know why.
For I, who despise your obnoxious bark and your nasty snarl,
it is the first pleasant sound that I have heard come from you.
I hear a music in it. Beside you, I imitate your song,

prompting you into a full-throated rendition.
The neighbors look askance at us, me more than you,
for you are a stupid dog meant to howl and bay,
but I am a man, who is supposed to know better.

There is a music in the yodel of my dog
David J. Keffer
Knoxville, Tennessee
July 7, 2015