Thursday, March 11, 2010

Today's poem - Retriever by Faith Shearin


My father, in middle age, falls in love with a dog.
He who kicked dogs in anger when I was a child,
who liked his comb always on the same shelf,
who drank martinis to make his mind quiet.

He who worked and worked—his shirts
wrapped in plastic, his heart ironed
like a collar. He who—like so many men—
loved his children but thought the money

he made for them was more important
than the rough tweed of his presence.
The love of my father's later years is
a Golden Retriever—more red

than yellow—a nervous dog who knows
his work clothes from his casual ones,
can read his creased face, who waits for
him at the front door—her paws crossed

like a child's arms. She doesn't berate him
for being late, doesn't need new shoes
or college. There is no pressure to raise her
right, which is why she chews the furniture,

pees on rugs, barks at strangers who
cross the lawn. She is his responsible soul
broken free. She is the children he couldn't
come home to made young again.

She is like my mother but never angry,
always devoted. He cooks for his dog—
my father who raised us in restaurants—
and takes her on business trips like

a wife. Sometimes, sitting beside her
in the hair-filled van he drives to make
her more comfortable, my father's dog
turns her head to one side as if

thinking and, in this pose, more than
one of us has mistaken her for a person.
We would be jealous if she didn't make
him so happy—he who never took

more than one trip on his expensive
sailboat, whose Mercedes was wrecked
by a valet. My mother saw him behind
the counter of a now-fallen fast food

restaurant when she was nineteen.
They kissed beside a river where fish
no longer swim. My father who was
always serious has fallen in love with

a dog. What can I do but be happy for him?

Faith Shearin, from The Owl Question


  1. This is a great poem. I think I know this guy. I haven't heard of FS. I will have to look her up.

  2. This is a lovely poem. Maybe it's helped but what I think is a photo of the poet at a reading on the right, but I felt like I could 'hear' the poem being read out loud.

  3. Oh Nan. This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing it.

  4. I can always count on you for good introductions to people - good poem. Is that photo from a reading?

  5. My thanks to each of you for taking the time to leave a note about this wonderful poem. I heard it on The Writer's Almanac last evening.

    I had never heard of Faith Shearin but am now going to buy The Owl Question.

    Yes, Christy, that is Faith Shearin. I try to find a photo of the poet whenever I post a poem.

  6. Since I have a Golden I know just what the poem is talking about. They are wonderful dogs! What a great poem! Have a great weekend Nan!

  7. Sherri, isn't it just wonderful!

  8. I am not a huge fan of poetry. Too often it is pompous and difficult to understand. But I like this one. It's approachable. Everyone knows someone like the father in the poem or someone like the daughter. Or a pet like the Golden Retriever :)

  9. Karen, this is just why I like Mary Oliver's poetry, and this one by Faith Shearin. I understand what is going on. If you click on 'today's poem' on the sidebar, I think you'll find quite a few that are 'approachable.' At least, I hope so!

    I'm so pleased, Ernestine!


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