Saturday Poetry with Paul Legault
For National Poetry Month we are bringing back Sunday Poetry, now with additional Saturdays! First up is Paul Legault with a poem for his dog from his Coach House debut collection, The Tower.
A PRAYER FOR MY DOG
I wish the strongest ghost were here
to guard my Brooklyn baby
from whatever things are
until it’s all just easier thoughts
like breakfast. Make sure
my bodyguard guardian angel’s packing.
I don’t want to have to mourn on the internet.
If I were in the post-apocalypse,
I’d do a lot of worrying.
What else? I’d plant a tree.
I’d change my name to Merlin,
hunt wild game in an abandoned Target,
then die of something lame
like dehydration or death.
Everything’s an everyday thing
every day. Your favourite weapon
is also the katana. I don’t think
people want to see
a movie about my life,
but maybe a poem,
if that’s something you can look at
with whichever eyes look in language.
I missed my dog, so I wrote her.
Dear Laura Dern,
Dear deer in the way in the snow,
when I’m travelling through the dark
like a proper samurai, because of you
I don’t wear loud shoes anymore.
When dogs die I feel old.
People expect you to set an example.
Some people light roses on fire
in Photoshop. I don’t know any trees I want to be.
"A Prayer for My Dog" is based on a W. B. Yeats poem titled “A Prayer for My Son”. Basically, the mystical Irish senator prays for a guardian angel to watch over his crying baby (so he can get some sleep). I don’t have a son, but in the great queer literary tradition (see: Gertrude Stein’s Basket) I have a dog.
Joseph and I got a puppy when we moved in together in Bushwick, right after Enlightened was cancelled, so we named her Laura Dern. What else do you need to know about this poem? In The Walking Dead, my favorite actor on the show, Danai Gurira, plays a katana-wielding badass. What else? There’s this beautiful W. S. Merwin poem called “Place” that starts “On the last day of the world / I would want to plant a tree.”
Love makes you think about the apocalypse, because it gives you this mission: protection, which is to say the protection of your loved ones against the worst thing that can happen. I wish there were guardians to protect everyone on the Earth. We’re in the midst of a pandemic. There is a climate crisis that threatens to kill millions more. Trees and we are in a bad position. It is easy to love animals. They just are. Us too.
Paul Legault is the author of The Madeleine Poems (Omnidawn, 2010), The Other Poems (Fence, 2011), The Emily Dickinson Reader: An English-to-English Translation of the Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (McSweeney's, 2012), Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror 2 (Fence, 2016), and Lunch Poems 2 (Spork, 2018). He also co-edited The Sonnets: Translating and Rewriting Shakespeare (Nightboat, 2012).