BENNY THE DOG
The dog keeps the family going. He prowls the pretty
apartment, sniffing for trouble, and this place is deep
in trouble: Mummy losing her mind to dementia,
Daddy in despair, wearing his dark mood like
a moth-infested sweater he can never remove.
The dog has cancer, but takes chemo three days
a week, and doesn’t let his guard down.
These are people he loves. He may not understand
their sorrows, but he knows sadness when he smells it,
and he knows his job is to keep them awash in his love.
Breathing in the deep despair in the air,
and refusing to let his guard down.
Love is the language he barks.
When he comes by the house now, which is not often,
when he comes by in the afternoon in his work truck,
and he slips in the door, his clothes covered with the work muck,
I grab a brief hug before he heads for the porch. He likes to sit
and smoke a cigarette. I bring a beer. He relaxes.
The sun is out. We steal these few moments in his busy life.
I know him so well and yet in some ways I don’t know him at all.
My friend likes to call him my “shag-mate” and though I once
resented such a description, I now think it’s true.
It’s mainly about the shagging, I guess, and this day
we have an extra complexity. Some other workman, whom I’m not
shagging, is due to paint the window frames, and he’s reached the one
on the bedroom, and since I don’t really want to perform for an audience,
we must slip out to the studio, and I carry the vodka bottle
in my hand, and he takes a quick shower before we scurry down
the driveway, trying to hide ourselves before the other fellow
returns from lunch. Somehow such hide and seek maneuvers
make the mission of shagging all the more evident. That’s
why he’s here, and why I’m happy, and why the vodka bottle
is tucked under my arm. He can’t stay long—
has other tasks, miles to go before he sleeps,
and I’ve a play to attend, and a poet to hear,
and I guess we’ll go on this way another year.
Soon it will be six years since we commenced.
You’d think we’d have gotten somewhere by now.
Poet and playwright Victoria Sullivan has had seven Equity productions of her plays in New York City. Active in the Woodstock Fringe Playwrights Unit, and the American Renaissance Theater Company, she has performed her poetry at various venues in New York City and the Hudson Valley; has four published chapbooks–including her recent WHEN I WASN’T LOOKING with the Red Parrot Press (2012); has published widely in little magazines; and is the “poet laureate of the Woodstock Roundtable” on radio station WDST 100.1.