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Original Poem: "Alex as Artist" with Commentary

Writing poetry became my major composing activity circa 1962, & Mr. Malcolm Sedam's creative writing class in 1963-64 deepened my interest.

Alex, aka Albo

Alex, aka Albo

Introduction and Text of "Alex as Artist"

My poem, "Alex as Artist," is an American sonnet," which appears in my third published collection of poems titled Turtle Woman & Other Poems. It describes my experience with our family dog, lovingly nicknamed "Albo."

Alex, aka Albo, was a sweet, precious dog, who spent some time on this earthly realm from September 23, 1988 until August 11, 2002. Dogs live a perfect metaphor for love, for buoyancy, for divinity. Spell dog backwards and you have G-o-d.

Thus, what is more poetic than a dog? And no dog in my experience has been more poetic than Albo. To his memory, I dedicate this “polished sonnet,” sending his little soul my love and affection. His sweet ways live in my heart and mind, and I’m sure in the hearts and minds of all who were fortunate enough to have met him.

Alex as Artist

“It’s a dog’s life.”

When he curls up beside me on the couch and settles into steady breathing,
his ease of comfort flows like a polished sonnet.
He has mastered the art of comfort.

When I cook, he perfects his craft of begging. Taking bits of food off
the ends of fingers requires precise placement of teeth and tongue.
He's mastered the art of eating.

Some say he's cowardly, but he's just careful.
The artist's eye and ear perceive the world to be a dangerous place,
so he's crafty to run from loud noises and sudden moves.

Some say he's dumb, but he's just deliberate.
He wants to keep body and soul together
and retire a well-matured craftsman.

Unlike schemers, shams, and fantasizers, he takes his art quite literally,
and he has learned to simplify: beg food, bark, and sleep sleep sleep.

Commentary

Americans love their dogs. Dogs bring us love and joy, but they also bring us new ways of looking at behavior. New ways of interpreting what each act means. My dog Alex, aka Albo, had a unique personality. He used extra caution with each new encounter. He was a lummox and seemed to weigh much more than his 40 pounds. But he could take a piece of bread or cheese out of my fingers delicately, without biting as most dogs usual do. He did, indeed, simplify his life down to the very doggy basics of eating and sleeping, and simplicity remains a basic human goal for us all.

First Movement: The Speaker and Her Dog

When he curls up beside me on the couch and settles into steady breathing,
his ease of comfort flows like a polished sonnet.
He has mastered the art of comfort.

The speaker sits on the couch doing God-knows-what and the family dog nestles beside her sleeping while she does whatever it is she does, perhaps read, write, watch TV, doesn’t matter, because the focus is on the sweet dog named Albo.

The speaker observes that the sweet dog can rest, and his rhythmic breathing reminds her of a "polished sonnet.” She concludes that Alex, aka Albo, has mastered “the art of comfort” — an art that humans can only dream of.

Second Movement: The Speaker, Her Dog, and Food

When I cook, he perfects his craft of begging. Taking bits of food off
the ends of fingers requires precise placement of teeth and tongue.
He's mastered the art of eating.

Have you ever noticed that some dogs will almost bite off your finger when you offer them a tidbit? You quickly learn to toss the tidbit instead of simply offering it off the tips of your fingers. This sweet dog seems to have a knack for taking those tidbits without lopping off digits. Again, the speaker finds this unique creature an artist, and definitely a craftsman in eating.

Third Movement: An Artful and Crafty Dog

Some say he's cowardly, but he's just careful.
The artist's eye and ear perceive the world to be a dangerous place,
so he's crafty to run from loud noises and sudden moves.

Ah, the individual personalities of dogs! It appears that this Albo has been labeled a coward, but the speaker wishes to differ: Albo is just being careful, paying close attention to the serious business of keeping body and soul together as long as he can. The world is, indeed, a dangerous place. We all have to be careful. Does that make us all cowards?

Fourth Movement: A Deliberate Dog

Some say he's dumb, but he's just deliberate.
He wants to keep body and soul together
and retire a well-matured craftsman.

Again, what’s with the prejudicial name calling? He’s not “dumb" — he takes care, slowly considering his options. He wants to live as long as he can, who doesn’t? The speaker is becoming more and more indignant about the labels others have tried to pin on her dog. She knows his true nature, and she is out to celebrate it. So to hell with those who would falsely criticize sweet Albo for just doing what artistic and crafty souls always do on the mud ball of planet.

Fifth Movement: A Thoreauvian Dog

Unlike schemers, shams, and fantasizers, he takes his art quite literally,
and he has learned to simplify: beg food, bark, and sleep sleep sleep.

This precious animal is the genuine article. He’s no Robert Bly of letters, no Barack Obama of memoir. He’s not a fake. He takes life and living it quite “literally," that is, quite seriously, directly, accurately. And most important of all, he is quite Thoreauvian in his craftsmanship: he has learned the efficacy of simplicity, as he follows Henry David’s dictum, “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.”

© 2020 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Linda Sue Grimes (author) from U.S.A. on February 22, 2020:

Donna Rayne, thank you for your comment and kind words. Albo was a unique little soul. His ability to relax was unparalleled. He loved to eat and sleep, and he could bark and tail wag with the best of them. We were certainly blessed to have had him in our lives!

Blessings for you and yours, Donna.

Linda Sue Grimes (author) from U.S.A. on February 22, 2020:

Thank you, Lorna Lamon! So glad you enjoyed your little visit with Albo. He's a heavenly creature. His exploits filled us with many memories, laughs, joys, and a few heartache as well, as he became ill and then left us. Yes, our dogs enrich our lives in so many ways!

Blessings to you and yours, Lorna.

Donna Rayne from Sparks, Nevada on February 22, 2020:

I loved reading this and this is a very good write. A cute little dog on a mission to capture life in his paws!

Blessings,

Donna Rayne

Lorna Lamon on February 22, 2020:

I enjoyed this touching tribute to Alex and the commentary, in particular the last paragraph. I saw my own dog within your lines, a much loved a very special friend. Thank you for sharing such wonderful memories Linda.

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