Sunday, September 21, 2014

Elegy for Blue - J. T. Ledbetter

Someone must have seen an old dog
dragging its broken body through
the wet grass;
someone should have known it was lost,
drinking from the old well, then lifting
its head to the wind off the bottoms,
and someone might have wanted that dog
trailing its legs along the ground
like vines sliding up the creek
searching for the sun;
but they were not there when the dog
wandered through Turley's Woods looking
for food and stopped beneath the thorn trees
and wrapped its tail around its nose
until it was covered by falling leaves
that piled up and up
until there was no lost dog at all
to hear the distant voice calling
through the timber,
only a tired heart breathing slower,
and breath, soft as mist, above the leaves.

Is there a surer recipe for tears than something about a dead or dying dog?  Ledbetter successfully plays on those emotions with a supremely pitiful description of an old dog crawling through the forest to die.  There's a profound sense of abandonment running throughout the poem, this dog with no one to seek after or mourn him.  Any sense of peace one might expect to find in the nature setting is dispelled by the image of a dog dragging his useless back legs seeking a place to die.

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