This project began, as so many literary ventures do, on a drunken New Year's fishing trip down in the Florida Keys. Bob Shacochis, Mark Richard, and Bob's dog, Frank, were ringing in the New Year around a campfire when Frank, an Irish Setter, was moved to verse. The poem, according to Bob, was titled "Wind," and follows in its entirety:
Leaves--I thought they were birds.
This was followed, according to Mark, by an ambitious sequel,
Tangled cassette tapes
behind Tower Records,
I thought it was rats--
it was rats!
One thing we were sure of: part of our happiness derived from pleasing them
--the dogs we know, and, it occurred to us, the dogs we didn't know.
So we decided to give to a range of animal welfare agencies every last cent we make on this book.
Actually, we're devoting only half. But still--half!
Think of it as our benefit for the boneless.
So we're not
Michael Rosen! What have you done for animals lately?
We have done what vocational guidance counselors recom-mend: find a thing you do anyway, and find a way to make it pay. And for us the surprise was no surprise at all--page after page of love poems.
Jim ShepardLove Song of Audrey
The door, friends, will not
Open. My kidneys urge
The tedious quotidian.
I have measured out my life
With quiet whines.
I grow old-- I growold--
In endless dogs' manure I'll have rolled.
No! I am not Ch. Dandie Dinsmore,
Nor was meant to be;
Just a beta dog, one that will do
To swell a pack, start a fight or two
Advise the alpha, deferential,
Glad to be of use,
A rear-sniffer, meticulous,
Politic, cautious, a bit obtuse.
Shall I drink from the toilet? Do I dare steal from the plate?
I shall sleep upon their bed, on those nights they return late.
I shall steal away his slipper, then steal away its mate.
Stephen Dunn Buster's Visitation
I'm a dead dog for real now;
no longer can I rise
from my fakery, alert to commands
I'd come to think of as love,
though I never did obey
as well as Sundown did
or as a truly good dog would.
To play the slave, not be one,
was my code. You understood,
who would play the master.
From my grave in the yard I see now
you had no gift for it, or heart.
Bad dog, you'd say,
so little conviction in your voice.
In seconds you'd be patting my head.
Forgiveness made you happy; I'd tip over
the garbage to he forgiven by you.
Let me tell you it's no life
being dead. I'd give anything
to chase the gulls again.
But clarities come when the body goes.
For whatever it's worth
you should know--you who think so much--
only what's been smelled or felt
And in the dark earth no doors open,
no one ever comes home.
--BusterFrom the Trade Paperback edition.
Excerpted from Unleashed by Edited by Amy Hempel and Jim Shepard. . Excerpted by permission of Crown, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.