Animal Cruelty

In a comment to the previous post, Chris Robinson makes reference to a poem from my book Magical Thinking. We bear a special responsibility, greater perhaps than the responsibility we bear toward each other, to care for animals. Whichever philosopher said that we reveal our character through our treatment of those weaker than ourselves was right, I think. Here is the poem.

Abandoned Bluetick Bitch

Numbed with self-loathing, we abandon the emissaries of grace. Chained to a tree

beside the empty rental she hollowed out a den for herself & her young.

By the time we found her the water they'd left her was a couple of days gone.

When the water was gone she would have slept, not dreaming, letting the pups nurse

her sparse milk & when the smallest died she ate it to keep her strength & cleanse the den,

depriving coy dogs & foxes an expedient scent. It's likely there were two more

before we found her. Ribs covered by a tissue of dry skin, she was nothing-a shadow

on the dirt & was just able to raise her head & take a little water from my hand

before turning to nose her three live pups awake. Reader, it is true, there is

horror everywhere worse than this & cruelty that beggars imagination, but this

is local & particular; these were my neighbors did this, who, without even the excuse

of psychosis, committed this wrong. Who live in this same light & shadow I live in.

Let us kill one another with heedless abandon-we deserve it- but not these poor relations

whose lives are without malice & whose motives are transparent. Let us kill one another.


Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

4 thoughts on “Animal Cruelty”

  1. I hadn’t read the novel when I wrote the poem, I don’t think, but yes I think there’s a connection or similarity of feeling.

  2. The Intruder

    after Jean Follain

    In the evenings they listen to the same
    tunes nobody could call happy
    somebody turns up at the edge of town
    the roses bloom
    and an old dinner bell rings once more
    under the thunder clouds
    In front of the porch posts of the store
    a man seated on a soda water case
    turns around and spits and says
    to everybody
    in his new set of clothes
    holding up his hands
    as long as I live nobody
    touches my dogs my friends

    Frank Stanford

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