People who know me know I handle things with humor. And this includes solemn moments as wellâ€¦I mean, I have somewhat of a sense of timing, but in the end I’m ok with a little humor across the board. I think it can give us an alternative look at serious issues, and perhaps make them not feel as “serious.” Â And this is a beautiful preface for this dog poem I wish to feature, Billy Collins’ “The Revenant“.
The title alone may give you chills!
Let me start by saying the poem is about something that can be quite a sad experience: the death of a pet. In fact, in this poem, the dog was put to sleep. As discussed in a previous post, Collins puts us in the minds of his speakers, and in this poem we see the dog’s thoughts from the afterlife. And the dog wastes no time:
I am the dog you put to sleep,
as you like to call the needle of oblivion,
come back to tell you this simple thing:
I never liked you–not one bit.
I love the cliffhanger after the 3rd line. Actually, this is a fabulous poem in the way that it carefully chooses where to end certain lines.
Then into subsequent stanzas, the dog lists potential reactions to its ownerâ€¦none as harrowing as the last line of this stanza:
When I licked your face,
I thought of biting off your nose.
When I watched you toweling yourself dry,
I wanted to leap and unman you with a snap.
Ouch. Come on, dogâ€¦really? The dog also describes the insults sustained in life with a take that may have you saying â€śyeah, but itâ€™s trueâ€ť:
I would have run away,
but I was too weak, a trick you taught me
while I was learning to sit and heel,
and–greatest of insults–shake hands without a hand.
The list goes on. And on, even though they seem like such normal “dog things.” Â I like how the last two lines here reflect the food/water motif discussed in my previous entry:
You do not want to believe this,
but I have no reason to lie.
I hated the car, the rubber toys,
disliked your friends and, worse, your relatives.
The jingling of my tags drove me mad.
You always scratched me in the wrong place.
All I ever wanted from you
was food and fresh water in my metal bowls.
Finally by the end, the dog lets go of all this angst and frustration, and seems to be released in an idyllic realization of the current surroundings. Interestingly enough, the poem seems to poke a little fun at those â€śdog thingsâ€ť that make for fun interactions and cute pictures on the internet:
Now I am free of the collar,
the yellow raincoat, monogrammed sweater,
the absurdity of your lawn,
and that is all you need to know about this place
How can a lawn be “absurd”? Â Anyway, we then get an idea on where dogs and stand on the literary hierarchy:
that everyone here can read and write,
the dogs in poetry, the cats and the others in prose.
All in all, it takes a somber moment to spin around what a dog may think of its owner. Itâ€™s a playful and humorous look at the possibilitiesâ€¦yes the dogâ€™s tone is quite bitter at times but for some reason, I just canâ€™t help but chuckle.
Can you think of something your dog may â€śnot likeâ€ť about you?
NOTE: Click here to see the author read the full poem (text included) along with one from a previous posting, â€śA Dog on his Masterâ€ť.