The Master of Nothing
Trainer says "this dog does not want to please master."
She is right. My commands are irrelevant. He responds solely
to treats. Calculates benefits like coupon clipper. Skittles
backward when approached. Pulls leash like bull against
training collar. Claws me jumping. Nips. "Wrong, bad
dog," is dare issued to miscreant. Screw you, he lips. We
have a staring war after which he lunges through air, nips
elbow. I pin him down, back to ground, straddle, sternly
enunciate "No. No jumping." Bore eyes into eyes. Release.
Chastened, he slinks away. Five seconds later hits me
midair like twisting sailfish. Dejected, I quit for the day,
knowing tomorrow...recidivism. He flunked puppy
preschool because he refused stay command. Non-smoker,
I crave Parliament. I want Old Crow. I stroke face,
kiss crown, hoist to lap, otherwise, weeks, months, my
baby doll. Two years now I'm drunk sucking through
nostrils mouth-exhaled smoke forming circle of self-
administered gratification. I love him. On hiking trail he
dashes twenty yards ahead, turns, like bull stands
rooted four-square facing me and when I approach leaps,
springboards off chest, strikes grounds, swivels, leaps,
springboards again, lands with concussion, thud, grinning,
then waltzes off to Marrakesh. One accepts one's child-
ren. One thanks God. One swells with pride. Play an
etude for us, Tommy, a polka, John. Tenderness squeezes
grapefruit tears. Oh baby, oh sweetie pie, my snatching
delinquent. Perfection flies out window like confetti.
Now rears onto hind legs, cha-chas across kitchen
counter, neck strained, cheek flat, tongue outstretched and,
jackpot: one pound block of gouda cheese which
becomes in seconds empty streaked cellophane wrapper.
Aching, melancholic, half naked, bewildered in the col-
lapse of years, "Bad dog!" shouts the master of nothing.
I bury beef bone, medium rare, in flower garden soil,
Nose-shoveling, lovingly, cover it to be unearthed when
fancy seizes. Bones everywhere in holes scratched with
black nails. Grains crumble off them when I exhume,
sod-spattered marrow. I am quasi-wild, tender yet vicious.
Some faces I will rip, others lick. I am serious about
Table-sawn ulna. My Appassionato. Michelangelo's slave
extruding from rock. I play court jester, rocket and cut,
but given beef part, flip eyes inward back to wolf. Under
crabapple tree, atop rounded mulch mound, I am devil wild—
keen, quick, instinctual. I am not you with your pole
beans, veal, heirloom lace cloth, butterfly bloom china.
Your eating room is my cold earthen grave. I offer you
Domesticated hair-covered muscle, pulse, beat, tongue,
my radiating heat, your poultice and comfort. Love me,
value me, star my snout, as I love you, my circle, my
wheel. But keep me please in knuckle and marrow
that I may hear the distant wildness of my name.
Like flip turning Olympic swimmer Finnegan hits, rockets
Off my side, hits again, irrespective of bent knee. Claws
rake skin. Once practically scalped Patricia yanking her
to street. Terrorist, terrorist, tough cookie, sixty pound
muscle slab leaping eye level, leaving bruise or slashed
butt or stomach, swordsman of Plainfield wood, Water
Dog, faultlessly untrained, indulged, cooked for—lamb,
liver—daily run on trails, deep-dish memory-foam wrap-
around bed, bred on raw. Baby, baby, my nightmare:
he laid bare, gashed, heaving, gore on bumper—horror
crawls my spine, imagining. Forest engulfs like maw
our frolic, he disabusing lake of weeds, I horsefly bitten,
we huge yet tiny radiating selves on primeval troves, he
doubling, scraping flesh shoving off me with love for
lunge back into soggy algae or sedge. What is dog,
human engineered genetic companion conforming
to man's idealized standard: adorable, adoring, un-
wavering, quiescent, cozy stuffed doll come to fruition.
Finnegan docks between my legs, face first, for body
massage, tail still as an un-rustled flag, offers self, love,
comfort, blood. The firmament in his skull, im-
memorially spun, orbits its dazzling god which is I.
About the Writer
The poems published here are taken from Gordon Massman's forthcoming collection, Poem for a Dog. He has published four collections with The New York Quarterly Press including the recently published, God, or a Handbook for the Unbeliever.
-- House Stuff
-- Heat Dream
Artwork and Photography
-- Mistry Trees
-- Let it Begin