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As a poet this interview was very interesting, however it’s impact went beyond interesting as it seemed to speak directly to a poem I had crafted this year. When Elizabeth Alexander said that poetry is “not all love, love, love,
and I'm sorry the dog died.” it immediately reminded me of my poem, “Sometimes, dogs”

A bit later in the interview she elaborates, saying “You know, when I say ‘poetry is not all love, love, love,’ I mean romantic love is where we go first with the word. But really there is so much more to the word. The word is sober. The word is grave. The word is not just about something light and happy and pleasurable. The word calls up deep, deep responsibilities.” She talks about how poetry has always been about community, that at it’s roots it is part of the societal discussion. She implies that this is the impetus of poetry, or at least a part of it’s functioning, when she says that it’s essence is “I gotta tell you my story. I gotta tell you what happened. Let's think about who we are.”

Even though I understand the context of what Dr. Alexander was speaking to, I also received a different message, a message that helped me to understand my own poem. “Sometimes, dogs “ here is a poem about being sorry that the dog died, and so much more which falls into the category of both about love and about the dog dying and about sober, grave issues which I believe are calling us to brave, deep responsibilities to talk about who we are.

sometimes, dogs

If you have had a dog,
then you know their pure love,
and most, their frailty

sometimes, dogs outlive their offspring 

yet their lifespan is still shorter than their owners’
especially the children they’ve grown up playing with

you have tasted the sweetness your own life
in their tail wagging from ear to ear
as much you have tasted your own mortality

in the foreshadow of their passing

the latter days spent snoozing in the sun
spunk of youth rising only in rabbit dreams 

or in their eyes momentarily at the crinkle
of the treat bag or cheese wrapper

the glossy sheen of their coat gone dry, wiry

perhaps grey or even gone, worn at the elbows
…the stick fetched far fewer times

then one day they’re gone,
you hate to see them go, sometimes
torn at the seams of sickness 
and circumstances,
the catch 22 at the end of love, with 

the other hand being only an end of

think you hear them murmur in the night

or the nails on the floorboards, chasing rabbits

wake up early, out of habit
 to let no-dog out,
and sigh
, turn on the TV in an empty room,
watch without sound 
 the news
of the latest loss of school children

feel a thing inside reflected too deeply

a companion sorrow touching yours
as your heart comes to terms with the facts

sometimes dogs outlive their children

~David Anthony Martin
Copyright 2013

This poem, “Sometimes, dogs” is a poem that gave me pause to reflect as it is the only poem I have written in which the “plot” and movement of events is not accurately drawn from a single experience in my life, rather it is a hybrid of experiences woven together into an anecdotal narrative-styled poem. It is a poem of experience; a poem, which I hope, allows us to “…think about who we are.” Strangely enough, Dr. Alexander also addresses this type of poem further into the interview saying,

“The truth of a poem is actually much deeper than whether or not something really happened. What matters is an undergirding truth that I think is the power of poetry and I think that, when I veer from that even by a syllable, it's my job to know if I've veered from that.”

I am going to post this in more of an article poem on my blog An Illuminated Path of Heart. You can read more samples of my work there at: