Small Demon
Apr 282008
 

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.

Apr 272008
 

I’m not going to link to the photos / video of artist Habacuc’s work. If you want to see a dog starving to death as an art installation, you can search on the name.

Proposal for funding: An art installation: Guillermo Vargas Habacuc comes to my house & we tie him to a tree out back without food or water. My dogs & I watch from the deck as he starves to death. They bark at him & I jeer, but soon we grow bored & he dies in loneliness & terror. Certainly the authorities would have no objections since this would be an art installation.

Note: Looking around a bit more, I see that the artist has issued a series of statements defending his work. It’s hard to know what to make of them, but even the most recent in which he says he is trying to call attention to the plight of stray dogs makes no logical, aesthetic, or moral sense. Why not a street urchin with AIDS? Why not a torture victim? You want to call attention to the plight of stray dogs in Costa Rica? Go rescue one, provide veterinary care, and if it is “going to die anyway,” comfort it as you have it put down. Photograph & videotape tape the process & show that work in the gallery. Any real art — even the ugliest & most painful — must spring from some source of compassion; otherwise, it is merely egotism, voyeurism, exploitation, sensationalism, stupidity in various mixtures & combinations. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).