I have three dogs:
Top- fast and lean. Half Labrador, he sidles around like a furtive waiter,
hoping for the tip he never earned.
Jack – he’s clever but too old. When a bitch is on heat he wanders away
and looks for food.
Boy – good-natured, though he eats chooks. My favourite.
A good worker if not tired from chasing rabbits.
Hats are back! I was surprised to see a dog
in a chic little place in Willis Street.
I was sipping caffe latte and taking in
the ambience – those rimu floorboards,
a real fire in the hearth, crazy
hats with flowers and jewels
hanging from wires.
Tongues spoke from a painting
of melting heads with a German
message … about Zeit?
and there was a cool young poet
reading of places like St Peter’s, Paris, Pamplona.
Time indeed for reverie, a step back,
lost in that audience where mulled
glowed in slender hands,
the world and all its destinations
swirling in the whirligig of words.
I wanted to hold the moment,
say, “Wait, this is beautiful.”
Banal maybe, but i did feel something
more than merely satisfying.
Then in that moment of completeness
this scruffy devil of a dog appeared.
It went straight to me,
ignored every poetaster
and beautiful person,
then sniffed at each of my shoes
as if to say,
“What are you doing here – you
Where are your dogs?”
Credit note: “Dogs” is from John Horrocks’ collection Raw Places (Steele Roberts, 2005), and is reproduced by kind permission of the author. This version has some minor variations from the version that appears in “Dogs”.
: John and I met last year when we read together at a poetry event at the Greytown Arts Festival organised by the rather wonderful Madeleine Marie Slavick
. Afterwards, there was lots of swapping of poetry collections among the nine poets who took part, and I thereby obtained a copy of John’s collection Raw Places
. John is a farmer as well as a poet, and many of the poems are about his farm in the Wairarapa – but as a country boy trying to make good in the big city myself (cue banjo music), “Dogs” especially resonated with me. John tells me the poem is based on an actual event that happened to him at a Jenny Bornholdt reading.
An unrelated note: I attended the first New Zealand Poetry Society Wellington meeting of the year last night, where there were two guest poets: Andrew Nance, a recent graduate of the Iowa Creative Writing programme, who is currently teaching at the International Institute of Modern Letters in Wellington, and Colin Patterson from Leeston: “Colin is a retired farmer and unlikely poet, who entered his writing career late but with gusto. He is well-known around the South Island for his hearty performances.”
It would be almost impossible to imagine two more contrasting male poets in genre, style and presentation – the witty, sophisticated, drawling American with his retinue of poetry students in summer frocks, followed by Colin Patterson’s archetypal (and beautifully-performed) bush poetry – but I enjoyed them both. It was a great way to kick off the Poetry Society’s year.