The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®

 

Roy White

Domesticated

 

                If two such dogs are mated, on the average one quarter of the puppies will be double

                merles, which is the common term for dogs homozygous for merle.  —Wikipedia

 

Humping is not a problem here
at the working-class dog park—I mean, it doesn’t
bother us if it doesn’t bother the dogs.
It’s a place where on a sweaty afternoon
you might—a sighted person might—
see a dog-dad holding a can of beer.

 

This woman, though, is holding a white puppy
and setting him down to nose about,
tentative. Momo invites him to chase:
bows low with forelegs outstretched, then peels away,
looking over his shoulder,
like a cornerback dropping into coverage.
But the puppy doesn’t react, and the woman
picks him up again. A single gene
gives dogs the prized merle coat, but those with two copies,
the homozygous, are an unwanted white,
like this puppy, and often blind, like him.
Like me.

 

She says we can pet him, so I reach out my hand
to the pale blur, tentative,
not wanting to misjudge
and pet her breast instead. His fur is soft
as a cat’s fur, his tongue warm and smooth
on my fingers. My stomach tries to creep
into my chest. This puppy is a rescue,
but in the past they must have killed them, the breeders.
An acceptable loss, lebensunwertes Leben.
Maybe they drowned them, or maybe
they crushed their necks under a boot-heel.
I wouldn’t know.

 

On the drive home I tell Shelley about
the book I’m reading on my blind-guy player:
a man named Paul found work as a lab tech
to help pay for medical school, at a place
that ran experiments on puppies.
His boss warned him against petting the subjects,
but he could not resist. At the end
of each experiment, it was Paul’s job
to kill the puppies with an injection.
This was not, I think, a good job for a man
who suffered bouts of crippling depression.

 

Shelley pauses my story while she deals with
a driver who’s gone tharn in the merge lane,
who may lurch madly into freeway traffic
or just grind to a dead stop.

 

His psychoanalyst gave him a copy
of Goodnight Moon, a security blanket
and a stuffed dog named Pound Puppy. In the end,
Paul drove a hypodermic needle
into his own flesh, over and over
and over.

 

 

 

ROY WHITE is a blind person who lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota with a lovely woman and a handsome dog. His work has appeared, or is about to, in BOAAT JournalBaltimore ReviewRogue Agent and elsewhere, and he blogs at lippenheimer.wordpress.com.

 

Previous | Next