To All Dog Lovers Out There

It happens this way …

A friend just emailed me to say she put down her dog this morning. It was a compassionate thing to do since her sweet pet was suffering so much. My friend’s heart is cracking open with grief again – she’s experienced this before –- but she will assure anyone who listens that the love she has shared with her dear dog is worth the pain.

Everyday I receive FB posts from my dog-loving friends across the country. They include messages about the benefits – physical and spiritual – of owning a dog – or, better yet, being owned by one. They make me laugh about the silly things dogs do and joy in the tenderness dogs show in nurturing abandoned kittens or guarding a sleeping child. I can understand the love.DSC07973

We don’t have a pet – unless you want to count the feral cats, steller’s jays, juncos, robins, and other various creatures who play in our backyard. The traveling we do makes owning a good excuse. I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving a dog in a kennel or even having someone other than us watch over it when we flew away.

Perhaps another reason is equally true: the experiences my brothers and I had  with pets growing up in NJ. I dug out this poem that appeared in Fall 2016 in an anthology called Our Last Walk: Using Poetry for Grieving and Remembering Our Pets.

I think the last six lines nail the truest truth about my lack of pet-ownership. A million cheers to all of you share love with, and learn love from, your pets. Someday …

 Love’s Labor’s Lost

or Why I don’t own pets

Three chameleons

disappeared

into our bamboo shades.

The horny lizard’s

soft-curled back

amazed

then,

like goldfish

in their hazy bowl,

flipped

its down-side up.

Unamused,

dad booted out

the lab who

slurped

his cabbage soup.

The speckled mutt

arrived

one day,

ran

away the next.

Need more

reasoning?

A droop-face cop

charged

our summer yard

and shot

two frothing pups.

My heart

can’t bear

another crack.

I fall in love

too hard,

too fast.

 

SMITTEN: How do we identify ourselves?

It happens this way …

There’s a new anthology coming out in a few weeks called SMITTEN: This Is What Love Looks Like from Indie Blu(e) Publishing. It features 120 women, ages 16-87, and their poems about loving women. Five poems of mine will appear in it.

During the past few weeks, I’ve met a number of editors and contributors via social media, answered interviewers’ questions, and read the interviews of women from around the world. What a powerful community this anthology is creating!

One question consistently stopped in my tracks: “How does your identity affect your work?” In the context of this lesbian collection (There: I’ve used the L-word! It’s only taken me seven decades to do that!), the question implies how does identifying as the L-word (ok, I’m not perfect yet) affect my writing?

Huh? Being a very late bloomer – I didn’t start to write poetry until I was 27 and didn’t come to grips with my sexuality until my early 40s – I never thought about that.

Being a woman beyond a certain age, I had identified myself as a teacher, business trainer, and writer; a carbon-based humanoid who happens to be a woman who happens to be a lesbian. I have written a number of poems about my personal relationships which have appeared in a variety of journals, but I’ve not been in an overtly lesbian anthology before.

I realized this was somewhat of a coming out into a world larger than my corner of Oregon. I knew former students of mine would read my interview on Facebook, Sister of Mercy friends would do likewise. I haven’t hidden my relationship with my partner of almost 27 years, but neither have I broadcasted it in such a far-flung way.

All this is to say, the question of identity is complex. How do we define ourselves? In terms of our work roles and/or our familial relationship? In terms of our race, ethnicity, education, sexuality, social standing, friendships, religious or political affiliations? All factor in and maybe identity is a mosaic: each a piece of the whole that is us. I’m still pondering who I am. Any thoughts about how you define yourself?

PS: Here’s one of the poems that will appear in SMITTEN.

I love you more than Mariska HargitayPoem

And so the day begins with you

explicating last night’s dream

about the way she stroked your cheek 

with her arresting smile and lured

you toward a dark-eyed kiss before

you fought her off explaining

it would be criminal beyond

the ordered bounds of law 

because the fact is I’m downstairs  

in muddy garden clothes and sleepy hair

waiting for your lips so I can ditch

my coffee cup and stubborn poem

to wage my outdoor chores

and you’re telling me you’re telling her 

you never swore a vow or wear

a wedding ring but when stray nights

tempt you toward a luscious offering 

you walk away you’re telling me 

you are faithful even in your dreams.