After an Illness, Walking the Dog

(c) Georges Dambier
(c) Georges Dambier.

After an Illness, Walking the Dog

Jane Kenyon

Wet things smell stronger,
and I suppose his main regret
is that he can sniff just one at a time.
In a frenzy of delight
he runs way up the sandy road—
scored by freshets after five days
of rain. Every pebble gleams, every leaf.

When I whistle he halts abruptly
and steps in a circle,
swings his extravagant tail.
Then he rolls and rubs his muzzle
in a particular place, while the drizzle
falls without cease, and Queen Anne’s lace
and goldenrod bend low.

The top of the logging road stands open
and bright. Another day, before
hunting starts, we’ll see how far it goes,
leaving word first at home.
The footing is ambiguous.

Soaked and muddy, the dog drops,
panting, and looks up with what amounts
to a grin. It’s so good to be uphill with him,
nicely winded, and looking down on the pond.
A sound commences in my left ear
like the sound of the sea in a shell;
a downward vertiginous drag comes with it.

Time to head home. I wait
until we’re nearly out to the main road
to put him back on the leash, and he
—the designated optimist—
imagines to the end that he is free.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I have not been sick lately, but I love this poem, and I feel closely connected with Kenyon’s observations: how the aftermath of an illness seems to bring ordinary things into sharper focus, how we cherish simple things, such as our dog’s “frenzy of delight” or the look of “his extravagant tail.”

Hope you have peaceful weekends ahead of you.

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