“…To Unsnare Time’s Warp”

Can you guess the breed of which the poet wrote in this poem (scroll down):









Fetch? Balls and sticks capture my attention
seconds at a time. Catch? I don’t think so.
Bunny, tumbling leaf, a squirrel who’s—oh
joy—actually scared. Sniff the wind, then I’m off again: muck, pond, ditch, residue
of any thrillingly dead thing. And you?
Either you’re sunk in the past, half our walk,
thinking of what you never can bring back,
or else you’re off in some fog concerning
—tomorrow, is that what you call it? My work:
to unsnare time’s warp (and woof!), retrieving,
my haze-headed friend, you.
This shining bark,a Zen master’s bronzy gong, calls you here,
entirely, now: bow-wow, bow-wow, bow-wow.
Honestly, it could describe most of our breeds, but the writer had a specific breed in mind, and as they say, “it takes one to know one.”  Mark Doty, a contemporary American poet, tipped his hand, so to speak, as a Golden Retriever owner when he wrote his poem entitled, “Golden Retrievals” from the perspective of a Golden Retriever on a walk with his owner. 

The retriever’s owner might be preoccupied with matters of the past and future, but his dog is “all in” on discovering new scents, sounds, and sensations. Only the dog’s bark brings his owner back to the present moment, and in literary speak,  the “shining bark” serves as a metaphoric reminder to the man to embrace the here and now.  How much we can learn from our dogs: One day at a time, and today is what matters. 

We read evocative lines that touch us, but there is structure to this poem just as a beautiful, sound Golden Retriever reflects its breed standard. Though the four stanzas deviate from the tradition form,  it is reminiscent of a Shakespearean sonnet. If you follow poetry, you will have noticed the three quatrains followed by a couplet, but the rhyme scheme and meter are more free-flowing, maybe even modern. In the end, the poem succeeds in imparting a sense of spontaneity and motion – familiar hallmarks of taking an enthusiastic dog for a walk.

Not surprisingly, Doty was the winner of the National Book Award for Poetry in 2008, but a particular depth to the poem may have been imbued by the poet’s familiarity with loss and grief; Mark Doty wrote “Golden Retrievals” four years after he lost his partner, Wally Roberts, to AIDS. The line, “Either you’re sunk in the past, half our walk, thinking of what you never can bring back,” may serve as a reminder that it may be time to move on, this from the perspective of a dog who lives in the moment.

It really is a sophisticated poem.

Image shared  under CC0 Public Domain license via PxHere


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