The Orange Room Review

Accessible poetry of substance

Dog Years

by Antonia Clark

In 1958, I had a dog named Six, because he had 4 legs
and 2 ears. Mom said no dog in the house, so Dad
built a pen down cellar. It was cool and I hid
there. I didn't know the yelling wasn't
really about the dog, or why Mom
slammed the doors saying
listen to me, don't you
ever let any man
make a fool
of you.

In 1970, I had a dog named Isaku, which means stinky
in Japanese. Whenever he got out, he came back
covered in shit from the binjo ditches. Kyoko,
who lived upstairs, threw buckets of water
over the railing and shouted curses.
I watched the crazy pyjama man
through a slit in the blinds,
waiting for my young
husband to come
home drunk.

In 1973, I had a dog named Henry, who followed me home
one night. I was so stoned I thought he was a ghost dog,
but in the morning he was there and I was grateful.
He wore no tags, had a stunning repertoire
of tricks. No man alive could make me
laugh like Henry on his hind legs
dancing with me to The Who.
I won't get fooled again
I sang and cried
to my dog.

In 1983, I had a dog named Thor, a smart German shepherd,
a great good god of a dog. We stood on the steps when
Gregory drove away, Thor licking my hand, eyes
saying nevermind, nevermind. I called him
Mr. Thoreau in my more philosophical
moments, explained that it was all
for the best. And I never cried
over any man the way
I cried when that
dog died.

In 1988, I had a dog named Rufus, a badass dog, who chewed
and snarled and bit, dumped the trash and dragged home
dead fish. This was when Speedy Sally lived across
the street, when Mitch was coming home late,
later, then not at all. At any sound, Rufus
growled, tensed, teeth bared, ready
to save me. But how, after all,
could I be saved?  "Woof!"
I barked at the dog.
Fooled you!

ANTONIA CLARK works for a medical software company in Burlington, Vermont. She has taught college-level creative writing and is currently co-administrator of an online poetry forum, The Waters. Her poems have recently appeared in kaleidowhirl, Light Quarterly, Lily, Loch Raven Review, Lucid Rhythms, Rattle, Stirring, and elsewhere.