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American Life in Poetry

A feature provided by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

I’ve read lots of poems about the loss of beloved pets, but this one by J.T. Ledbetter, who lives in California, is an especially fine and sensitive one.
 

Elegy for Blue

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 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.

 

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

 

Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

 

"If I read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry."
    -- Emily Dickinson


This Northern Nonsense: Poems by Stephen Wilbers

Poem for Dale Schatzlein