Praise of a Collie
by Norman MacCaig
She was a small dog, neat and fluid —
Even her conversation was tiny:
She greeted you with bow, never bow-wow.
Her sons stood monumentally over her
But did what she told them. Each grew grizzled
Till it seemed he was his own mother's grandfather.
Once, gathering sheep on a showery day,
I remarked how dry she was. Pollóchan said, 'Ah,
It would take a very accurate drop to hit Lassie.'
And her tact — and tactics! When the sheep bolted
In an unforeseen direction, over the skyline
Came — who but Lassie, and not even panting.
She sailed in the dinghy like a proper sea-dog.
Where's a burn? — she's first on the other side.
She flowed through fences like a piece of black wind.
But suddenly she was old and sick and crippled ...
I grieved for Pollóchan when he took her for a stroll
And put his gun to the back of her head.
"Praise of a Collie" by Norman MacCaig, from Collected Poems. © Shatto & Windus
Every day I read at least three poems that were chosen by others: I have a paper poetry day by day calendar for 2013 and I subscribe to two on-line services: "A Poem a Day" that comes from poets.org and a poem from "The Writer's Almanac." The poem above, by Norman MacCaig, was today's offering in "The Writer's Almanac." I love the tenderness and the realism. Any poet who can scrupulously describe anything is a great poet in my book. In addition, I return to and reread a lot of poetry when I feel like it. I must have about 500 poetry books at home.
But to get back to MacCaig: He makes me feel the grief he felt for his dog and for Pollochan. And to make me feel and think--that is, as my students might say, "genius".