Writing poems about animals, especially pets, is a tale as old as time. My own debut chapbook, Celine, are poems I wrote for my cat who passed away too soon. Mary Oliver, in her book Dog Songs, writes poignant poems for a dog that died. It is a beautiful book filled with ruminations, memories, grief, and beauty. It is a goldmine for anyone who has experienced the passing of a beloved companion. All the poems, except my own of course, that follow are from that collection, and I highly recommend checking out Dog Songs in its entirety.
How it is with us, and how it is with them by Mary Oliver
We become religious,
then we turn from it,
then we are in need and maybe we turn back.
We turn to making money,
then we turn to the moral life,
then we think about money again.
We meet wonderful people, but lose them
in our busyness.
We’re, as the saying goes, all over the place.
Steadfastness, it seems,
is more about dogs than about us.
One of the reasons we love them so much.
A Bad Day by Mary Oliver
Ricky, why are you barking and trying
to rip up the couch? Can’t you settle
down? It’s been a long day.
“It sure has. First you forgot to take
me out. Then you went to the market
and heaven knows where else. And my
dinner was late. And our walk was
short. And now you’re supposed to
be on the floor playing with me but,
no, you’re doing something else. So I
thought I’d give this couch a little
Well, don’t. Be a good boy.
“Honestly, what do you expect? Like
you I’m not perfect, I’m only human.”
How it Begins by Mary Oliver
A puppy is a puppy is a puppy.
He’s probably in a basket with a bunch
of other puppies.
Then he’s a little older and he’s nothing
but a bundle of longing.
He doesn’t even understand it.
Then someone picks him up and says,
“I want this one.”
Untitled by Mary Oliver
Just before Percy had his operation
he had one long rendezvous with a
little dog name Penny. As it happened
there was no result. But, oh, how
Percy smiled and smiled all the way
How a lot of us become friends by Mary Oliver
One day on the beach Ricky met a dog
just his size. Her name is Lucy,
and she is very pretty.
“Wow,” said Ricky.
Naturally, I met Lucky’s mother, Theresa,
at the same time.
It happens that Ricky’s full name is
Ricky Ricardo, so how could Ricky and
Lucy not take to each other? In fact,
they became quite tight. It wasn’t
a good day if they didn’t see each
So how could Theresa and I not start
on that day to become friends?
Self-Portrait as Annie by C.W. Bryan
Like an old dog
my reflection greets me
at the front door of
every mirror in my house
It breaks through the fence
of my ribcage. The howling
echoes in my chest.
Our dog Annie died three years
ago. She should have prepared
me for this, but her barks
were full of love, not the