Blizzard died. I’m remembering
his limitless affection;
how he constantly gave you the chance to open your heart,
to thaw some of the ice around it;
how I failed to respond; knowing I should, but unable,
as if some crucial defeat would thereby be registered,
though even as I complained about him tramping mud all over the house,
or filling the snow in the yard with piss stains and frozen turds
or getting his muzzle full of porcupine quills,
or jumping bang through the screen door, or licking the butter,
or costing a fortune in pills and shots;
how, behind my posture of annoyance, behind my frosty hostility,
I knew him to be a princely spirit, magnanimous;
knew it from how he greeted me after every rebuff
with his jumps and nuzzles;
every day saying ‘this is your chance to show love . . . ’
Why couldn’t I show it?
Why this sense that good as it might have been,
it would also have been a violation of the natural order
or my own personal order?
I see him,
trotting ahead in the woods,
the big white plume of his tail bobbing up and up
like an irrepressible fountain, then vanishing
as he thundered off after a squirrel.
When he slept, his flank would start quivering;
he’d draw back his ears and his muzzle, and moan with delight,
chasing the squirrel again in his dreams.
Once, while I lay on the couch, flattened by depression,
he came and placed his paw in my hand,
and made a pitiful, pitying baying sound.
I did feed and water him, even cleaned up his shit once in a while,
but always with a dutiful air, an aggrieved look of martyrdom
as though afraid our household would collapse
if someone in it didn’t preserve a certain stiffness,
a certain chilliness in regard to the purely creaturely.
By James Lasdun.
You can also see James Lasdun reading and in conversation with Tania James at a Granta Britain event in Boston, MA on 24 May.