Year of the Drowned Dog
The boy is the color of the dog
dark nearly shadow
He squats over
the dead form
hands reaching down to hold
the dog behind head and haunches
to lift, to carry away,
or just putting down
from the sea where it floated
Or is it the boy’s shadow he tries
to lift from sand? A boy and his dog.
A boy and his shadow
forelegs and hind legs
extending away from his two,
the black body pooling out on sand
mimicking the arc of the boy’s curved back
The day is lovely, still early, the sand bright
the water clear greens and blues and sky
a brighter blue with just
enough cloud for contrast, for some shade,
a little relief when the sun grows higher
But this is only the far left panel of paper
A boy and girl stand
close but distant enough
on their own strip
to honor death and what this boy
crouched over his loss is discovering
they are bright tan, the girl naked,
the boy with arms crossed
an island cloth round his waist.
Neither are the dark chocolate shadow
of the boy and dog
though so close shouldn’t the sun
render them about the same?
Neither has a face
though they are watching
the boy about to turn
the dog toward him and heave
it to his chest, or laying it down
to rest after undulating on ocean waves
where it paddled out too far
chasing sleek silver fish.
Three young men dressed in white
and the blue of white
in sun shadow where cloth folds
on their backs slow their pace
heads turned just enough
to face the boy.
They might be walking by
or they might have appeared
between the blue of the sky
and the shimmering blue of their shadows
on yellow sand
to observe this boy
grieving over his dog,
over his first love, grieving
over a shadow that has failed him.
One cups a rectangle in his hand
at rest on the curve of his sacrum,
not a phone, not in 1983
a small book perhaps to record
the boy’s loss, or a slim
volume of prayers, their work
to witness, to check loss against loss
against loss for the measure
of a life—a sister, a father, one
or two great loves, a job, a mother, a country
the measure of how they add
up to whom he will be when he crouches
one last time in the sand
remembering a first dog
on a far beach that no longer exists
subsumed by warming tides.
If it ended there, these still figures
swirling around each other,
the death of the dog might be
some forgotten eddy,
but in another strip of paper
a figure comes striding down the beach
the only one with eyes.
He, too, is dark,
but splashed deep red and brown
a streak of light along a balding pate,
thickening torso, arms and chest
full of good strength
of a life full
with heavy lifting,
He strides toward them all.
He faces us.
He is coming to claim what he must
unhurried, determined, dressed in nothing
for the island day, his naked role,
collector of souls.
He walks toward the boy and dog
this small duty to fulfill
on another day filled with death
wondering why these angels always hover
in clumps for the least event—
a boy and a water-logged dog.
Don’t they have better
things to do? At least one
has sense enough
to strip down for a swim,
enjoy a moment out of this eternity.
It’s a gorgeous day.
Poem (c) Kirk Glaser. From the 4th Annual Poetry Invitational presented by San Jose Museum of Art and Poetry Center San Jose, April 27, 2013.
Image: Eric Fischl, Year of the Drowned Dog, 1983. Etching, aquatint on paper; 6 panels, 16 x 37 inches each. Courtesy of the artist.
Dive Deep: Eric Fischl and the Process of Painting is on view at San Jose Museum of Art through May 12, 2013.