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  • Writer's pictureTerry Pace

The House Dog’s Grave

Updated: May 23, 2020

I’ve changed my ways a little; I cannot now

Run with you in the evenings along the shore,

Except in a kind of dream; and you, if you dream a moment,

You see me there.


So leave awhile the paw-marks on the front door

Where I used to scratch to go out or in,

And you’d soon open; leave on the kitchen floor

The marks of my drinking pan.


I cannot lie by your fire as I used to do

On the warm stone,

Nor at the foot of your bed; no, all the night through

I lie alone.


But your kind thought has laid me less than six feet

Outside your window where firelight so often plays,

And where you sit to read–and I fear often grieving for me–

Every night your lamplight lies on my place.


You, man and woman, live so long, it is hard

To think of you ever dying

A little dog would get tired, living so long.

I hope than when you are lying


Under the ground like me your lives will appear

As good and joyful as mine.

No, dear, that’s too much hope: you are not so well cared for

As I have been.


And never have known the passionate undivided

Fidelities that I knew.

Your minds are perhaps too active, too many-sided. . . .

But to me you were true.


You were never masters, but friends. I was your friend.

I loved you well, and was loved. Deep love endures

To the end and far past the end. If this is my end,


I am not lonely. I am not afraid. I am still yours.


- Robinson Jeffers, 1941


About 1985 I was in a used book store in Lincoln, Nebraska and came across a copy of a small book of poetry by Robinson Jeffers (RIP 1887-1962). I was hooked immediately by his mystical writing about the balance between humanity and nature writ at large. Jeffers wrote during WWI, the Spanish flu epidemic, roaring 20's, great depression and dust bowl, then WWII. He was a pacifist and a social critic who felt profound sadness at the destructive follies of human beings. He found his greatest solace in nature and especially in the solidity of rocks, mountains, the sea and the ferocious fragility of birds and animals. For Jeffers, God was present and reveled to all of us in the natural world within which we are a part. I have since acquired and read much of Jeffers work and return to him over again for comfort and inspiration. His poems "Be Angry at the Sun", "Return" and "Shine Perishing Republic" are among my favorites. I have found a kind of tough wisdom in Jeffers. This poem about his little dog's death and grave is also so beautiful as he mourns his beloved dog who was clearly a best friend. I hope you too might feel some depth of memory and comfort through Jeffers words.

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