Welcome to where I am, where my kitchen's always messy, a pot's (or a poet) always about to boil over, a dog is always begging to be fed. Drafts of poems on the counter. Windows filled with leaves. Wind. Clouds moving over the mountains. If you like poetry, books, and music--especially dog howls when a siren unwinds down the hill-- you'll like it here.


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MY NC POET LAUREATE BLOG, MY LAUREATE'S LASSO, WILL REMAIN UP AS AN ARCHIVE OF NC POETS, GRADES K-INFINITY! I INVITE YOU TO VISIT WHEN YOU FEEL THE NEED TO READ SOME GOOD POEMS.

VISIT MY NEW BLOG, MOUNTAIN WOMAN, WHERE YOU WILL FIND UPDATES ON WHAT'S HAPPENING IN MY KITCHEN, IN THE ENVIRONMENT, IN MY IMAGINATION, IN MY GARDEN, AND AMONG MY MOUNTAIN WOMEN FRIENDS.




Saturday, February 27, 2010

LADY, by Julia Nunnally Duncan

Julia Nunnally Duncan at our joint reading at Malaprop's Bookstore in December.

Julia Nunnally Duncan is both poet and fiction writer. I "discovered" her years ago when I sat on the reading committee for Appalachian Consortium Press and read her manuscript of stories entitled Blue Ridge Shadows. It was haunting work, and I contacted her about it. (It was later published by Iris Press.) We've been friends ever since. Julia's latest book of poetry An Endless Tapestry (March Street Press) was one of 3 finalists for NC's Roanoke-Chowan Award and received a great review in the 2009 North Carolina Literary Review. She has published several collections of stories and a novel. To learn more about her and her work, go to http://www.topsail-island.info/wordpress/index.php/nc-authors/julia-nunnally-duncan/

Julia sent this poem to me after learning of my blog invitation for work about beloved animals.


Lady


The wildlife worker found her
deep in the winter woods,
a front leg clamped by a hunter’s steel trap,
the bone nearly severed,
snow her only sustenance
for the two weeks that she was caught.

He named her Lucky,
and the veterinarian’s record
made before the amputation
listed Lucky as her name.

We had named her Lady
a couple of years earlier
when we found her at the abandoned house,
cowering inside an outside toilet,
her basset hound mother already
dead from a neighbor’s bullet,
her sisters and brothers either killed
or dead from malnutrition.

Lady’s face was malformed—
a face only a master could love,
we would later tease.
At first too weak to hold her head up,
she let her muzzle hit the ground—
bonk—
every time she tried to lift it.
I braced her head
so that she could drink the water
she had thirsted for.

But after a few weeks of living in a cardboard box
on our front porch,
the shocking mass of roundworms
purged from her puppy guts
and her white gums soon pink with health,
she began to play.
And her speed
as she darted around our steep yard
would shame a greyhound;
her appetite proved phenomenal.
One Thanksgiving after she had filled her belly
with turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes
(her favorite dish),
she lay in the yard to rest,
but still barked at the leftovers
that tantalized her.

That later winter
when she went for a walk in the woods
and didn’t return,
I called the city dog pound
and cried as I described Lady—
black and white basset-beagle mix,
jut-jawed, big brown eyes—
hoping the dogcatcher might have picked her up
and still held her alive,
fearing he might say I’d called too late.
But he had not seen her.

And then after many torturous days
something happened:
a dog was mentioned
in the lost and found section
of our local newspaper.
I called the number and
spoke to a wildlife man
who had found her.

But I have bad news,
he added,
and told me about her lost leg
as if I wouldn’t want her anymore.

Lady lived with us many more years,
as quick a runner as ever,
and died at seventeen and a half
during a hard, cold winter,
when icy mounds of snow
piled around her backyard dog house.

She spent her final days in our basement, though,
near the woodstove.
We wrapped her in a quilt
and tended to her
as we might an elderly parent.
She suffered from incontinence,
had stopped eating—
her jaws locked—
and her eyes,
long past seeing,
had turned a cloudy blue.
It seemed her luck had run out,
or maybe it was a blessing
that the end was near.

When Lady passed,
my husband played a song on our stereo—
In the Arms of the Angels—
music that gave him comfort
and that he wanted to give to Lady
to send her safely away.
But like my mother who doesn’t want to hear
The Old Rugged Cross—
her mother’s favorite hymn
that was played at the funeral,
I have only to detect the first notes of the
Sarah McLachlan song,
and I change the radio channel.

It’s not that music that I want to hear
and remember Lady
as she was on her final night;
but rather I would like to recall
the bright sound from years earlier,
of her baying
at the Thanksgiving scraps,
annoyed that she couldn’t hold
one more bite.









10 comments:

Nancy Simpson said...

Hello Kay, I enjoyed reading Julia's "Lady" poem.

Also I like hearing of all Julia's writing successes. We met in the M.F.A. program, and some of us knew even then that she would be a star.

Vicki Lane said...

Wonderful -- what a journey Lady had! I'm glad her life was long.

And I love the close of the poem.

Jessie Carty said...

what an amazing pet and story. i also prefer to think of the positive rather than the end.

Pamela said...

Hello Kathrine! I will sure come back all the time. I loved this poem, dogs deserve it.

Thanks for visiting my Patagonia, I'm planning on translating it as I'm starting to have English speaking readers!

Julia Nunnally Duncan said...

Thanks, Kay, for allowing me to share Lady's life with others and for "discovering" me years ago; you've been a blessing to me. And thanks for everyone's comments on the poem. Nancy, you're a darling to say that. What memories I have of that time!

Charlotte said...

A story in itself. Lady really comes to life as a character.

Brian Miller said...

snap...that was a great poem...heartwarming...

Lisa Parker said...

Is there anything more amazing than to love an animal that has survived the odds before coming into our lives? Lady's story is an amazing one and I so enjoyed reading this. What a wonderful tribute to her!

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Thank you all! I"m getting caught up with my comments. A long drive yesterday laid me low!
Better today.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Julia, I remembered The Old Rugged Cross being played at my uncle's funeral and how my grandparents could never bear to hear it again. Nor can I.
Pamela, I will come visit your Patagonia site many times. Thanks for coming back to be introduced to Lady.