If I could choose
the last thing, I wonder.
The last thing I would ever see.
You understand me: I mean the last thing
I would see before I die. It should be
wonderful, like a bird. No, a bird
would never remember.
A dog running.
A little dog running to me.
A dog laughing and running.
I wish for a dog running and watching
the small birds alighting in the grass.
A dog of my own forever, just
a dog forever and ever.
J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed
Sitting in the drive-through of the bank today, I looked up between the buildings and saw a gull catch a gust of wind. I thought, What if that was the last thing I ever saw? It’s beautiful. What if people could plan ahead and choose their last vision. The poem began forming in the next minute or two, so that I had to pull over and start scribbling it in my handy pocket notebook. Jack London was right:
“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.”
Now I wonder, friends, what would be your choice? What would be the image you’d like to carry with you into eternity? Feel free to leave a comment or create your own expression and share a link to it.
“My dear fellow, I may be dead from the neck up, but rack my brains as I may I can’t see why a chap should need 30 pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep.”
So said a French literary editor to Marcel Proust, on rejecting volume 1 of In Search of Lost Time. It was a century ago and the subject was consciousness, not events or people. One can imagine such a book to be a challenge for the Marketing Department, especially when the writer’s style has all the pop and sizzle of a damp wool carpet.
I’ve not read much Proust. I used to have a 1921 edition of Remembrance of Things Past and I found it oh so dull. As advertised, it was good reading when trying to fall asleep. But my little dog thought the leather cover was tasty, so there went that.
It begs the question, though: if the subject is consciousness, as I think it can be, where can you go with that? Consciousness is the matter with which we are all most intimately familiar, yet we no almost nothing about it. So by means, we writers should explore the inner life.
Two years ago, I posted a flash fiction piece called Shining Leaves. Here it is, complete with audio reading. The second section imagines the consciousness of a dog, its life still touched by subtle joy yet aware of aging and loneliness.
Hard to believe, but it’s been three years since our little Happy went on to the world that comes next, to be with Grandma and run and play with the other dogs, and wait for us to catch up. It was July 8, 2009.
In this photo, Happy is having lunch just a few hours before the vet came to help her cross the bridge. I think lunch was her favorite, “oven baked” chicken from Subway.* She doesn’t look sick; she looks hungry and profoundly sweet and patient. But she was a pretty sick little doggie.
Happy didn’t write poetry, as far as I know. But she was a blogger.
My sheltie Tasha was a poet though. Here’s a poem for memory, written by Tasha in 1999. For the record, I didn’t mind Tasha sleeping on the bed or the quilt. I think she made that up for artistic effect. This photo is of Tasha on the bed, about a year after she wrote the poem, when we moved to our new house.
The Love Quilt
I’m not supposed to be on this bed,
but the man isn’t watching.
Not supposed to be on the grandma quilt,
the very pretty one with diamonds
of red and blue. The man thinks I’m
color blind. The little tassels of yarn
tickle my nose. I hope the man doesn’t
see me sleeping here. He says this quilt
is just for love, like a leash just for people
or a toy just for later. A dog needs this
love if she lives with a poet.
July 13, 1999
* For a mood lifter after this heavy post, here’s a video of Hank Green singing The Subway Where I Used To Go. And if you don’t know why that’s funny, here’s a version of the original song.
This video is just to help you smile.
Etta is a wonderful little Cavapoo, who loves to run and play. She gives kisses, wrestles with her toys, and does a twirly dance for her dinner. She’s not my dog, but she’s a personal friend of mine.
I’ve posted photos of Etta on a couple of sites, and will add more – plus videos – when time permits.
Click here for a Goolge photo album.
Click here for a Flickr photo album.
And here for videos on youtube.