A HISTORY OF DOGS

by Alan Feldman


Before there were ships or windmills,
all dogs were seals. You can tell
when you see their ears slick back
as if they didn’t have any, and from their eyes,
often molten and innocent, because they have no hands . . .

Their voices are so raw it’s clear they need water
to make them musical. And their sociability
derives from the way they used to circle fish,
their firm-fleshed furry bodies
swooping in a kind of dancing maneuver,
to help each other with the catch.

Yes, on land they learned to cooperate
with our vertical demands, but before time
they lived in an intelligent dream of satiety,
when the harshness of climate was subdued
by the slapping of their shiny fins . . .
Like us, they were never meant to be here––
wearing their winter coats, their paws splitting on the icy ground.

Tell us how we were seals, they seem to implore us,
how we were so much less distractible,
how we stroked the water slowly,
our bodies sleek and almost limbless,
our slightest need carrying us long distances into the deep. . . .

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