George Stanley

'I'd trade places with him in a minute,'
said the young monk, of the chocolate-speckled
Catahoula hound rolling at his feet.

'You don't think much of being human,' said the old fox.
'No, I don't. You do, but you're an artist. Without art,
you're an animal.' And was out the door, dog at heels.

That hound is Abner.  He lives at the monastery
with four other dogs, one a white, female Boxer pup
with a brown eyepatch, the other three bipeds - monks -
& Abner sniffs them all every morning
to know them - sometimes several times in one morning.
(It's not just recognition, there's more novelty in it -
as there is in the morning.)
					Meanwhile the rain - the hail -
of information continues. The monks sit at the kitchen table,
reading The Globe & Mail. It tells them 
how stupid they are not to understand
their true nature. 'Born to compete, boys.'
('Born to lose,' say the monks.) 'It's not just 
the bondholders have you by the short hairs,
it's your attitude.'
			   If The Globe & Mail
could be translated into doggish, would Abner wonder,
'Compete? for food? for love? Abner fights
with Dess, the boxer, for chewtoys, tug-of-war
with the old mophead, but that's just play,
not dog eat dog.

The monks compete. They compete with monks
from other monasteries.

The dogs howl when they're gone -
howl with loneliness. They don't know what time it is.

Hours, days, months, centuries pass.
Then suddenly the door opens. Ecstatic,
the dogs leap up, try to climb the monks,
lick their faces. Abner is so happy he wags his tail
so hard there are blood spots the whole length of the hall,

The young monk talks to him.
'If my arms were forelegs, if my hands were paws,
I'd drop to the ground & be a dog like you,
I'd sniff the world.'
			     (But whose world would it be?
the old fox thinks, emerging from his den.)

'But you'd just like to be up here, reading the paper,
eating your dinner with a knife & fork,
& talking away, like me.'
				   The fox thinks
it's not exactly the moment to defend
humanity, or the dog's dim desire
to escape eternity, such as it is,
when he himself has been drinking whiskey
& reading philosophy, to get down.

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