by Alicia Ostriker

Page 3

A number of my own poems concern matters of faith, definitions or redefinitions of the sacred. Dickinson wrote about her dog Carlos as a kind of alter ego. Perhaps Dickinson's dog was in the back of my mind when I described my soul--an odd sort of soul--in a poem called "What Else":

Here is what else the soul does. It tugs me
Like a strong dog pulling on a leash.

It doesn't remember how to heel, or refuses.
Unlike the well-trained dogs in the neighborhood,
It won't obey the master. It puts its head
Deep down between its shoulders, drags me stumbling

Zigzag up the block, while the joggers, plugged
Into their Walkman devices, smirk and stare.

And I have to confess, I am secretly glad of this,
Inwardly sympathetic toward its brute

Will to escape, curious what its world
Of holographic smells is like

To its mysterious doggy senses. And here's
What it causes me to do: sing, dance, kiss men,

Make poems, sometimes fiercely pray, invent
Gods and goddesses though I am an atheist,

Grow strangely sullen at dinner parties,
Forgetful at faculty meetings.

I wish I too could investigate the whole
Garden with my perceptive vibrant nose,
And I wish I too could shed my fur in handfuls
Twice every year; or fall asleep in a moment.

In autumn it elevates itself, it is ten feet high,
A column, a work of architecture.

Springtime it goes completely crazy. Summers,
It likes the beach. In winter, it wants to die.

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