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Jim Peterson


The body of Goya’s dog is lost
behind the horizon of a hill.
Her head rests on that line
like a risen moon, risen
because she’s looking forward
into the vast open space
of ascending hills; and because
she’s looking upward into
the openness of unlimited sky.
Her mind the essence of not knowing,
she loves that there is so
much to explore. She cocks
her head and listens to the wind
voicing its concerns over
the ridges, sending its perfect
desire to exist into the folds
of these rolling hills. She cocks
her head the other way and sees
the plover flickering from point
to point in the grass. She drops
her nose to the dewy scruff
and draws into her brain
the trail of a fierce grouse hen
and her scurrying brood.

I choose to ignore what science
says about dogs, that they
don’t feel what we feel—
love, grief, gratitude,
loneliness, joy. Likewise
I choose to ignore what
religion says about dogs,
that they have no soul, no
continuous spark of connection
to the divine. I ignore
because I know they are only
protecting their territories—
the way a dog comes flying
out from under the porch
to chase away anyone
who dares get too close
to the sacred yard—making
their comfort zones into dogma.
Liberated from our need
to prove and be right,
from our will to assert
and control, Goya’s dog rises
full-bodied on the horizon
like a shadow rippling
over the blazing earth,
driven by hunger and thirst
and ferocious pleasure.
Dwelling fully in her body
and soul, she trots off
and disappears into the grass,
reappears on a distant hill, heading
purposefully for the nowhere
becoming the somewhere
beneath her feet, ready
for whatever these knolls and ridges
present to her.


Nevermind that her hair
is unruly from the wind outside.
Nevermind that her fingers
are long and thin, or that her nails
are bitten down to the quick.
The keenness of her mind
preserves the crispness
of every thought.
She pretends to read an old book
while the surreptitious forays of her eyes
touch every face in the room,
every hand, even yours and mine.
But what she really believes in
shimmers in the air around her
like a spray of individual beads
stunned by the sun into integrity.
No husky insurance man
can turn her head
except to notice the particular
coloration of his feathers
in sunlight, or the way
his crown rises at the song
of a potential mate.
She looks at us looking at her
and her eyes go back to words,
her smile so faint only the faith
of a man makes it true.
No rusty instrument of fate—
coincidence, love at first sight—
is too old or too trivial
for her. She can pluck the dolphin
from the depth of any day’s desire.
She can roll the last crumb
of any sweetness
beneath her thumb for hours.
The naked foot adrift above her sandal
is the moon of this system.
How do I know all of this?
Like you I was born when everything else
was born, way back
when those original molecules
got their first good
look at one another.