Is that MY black dog

by Jane Mead

copyright ©2016 by Jane Mead


Is that MY black dog-
with telltale compost on his nose?
Blade of grass, squash of persimmon,

some leggy insect on his forehead
next to the growth? Is that MY
red truck speeding up the vineyard’s

central avenue, porta potty
bumping along behind, toilet paper
unfurling behind in celebratory loops?

Notes on the Poem

Jane Mead's beautiful book-length poem World of Made and Unmade graced the 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist. This week, we learned with sorrow of Jane's death. We gravitated immediately to the comfort of her words in excerpts from this and other of her memorable works. What a ruefully sweet excerpt this is, with literally earthy images capturing mildly annoying but actually rather amusing snippets of the quotidian. The 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize judges (Sue Goyette, Joan Naviyuk Kane and George Szirtes) were clearly charmed by these rather welcome intrusions throughout the poem, as they remark in the book's citation:
"The poem allows for the intrusions of dogs and the laundry room flooding, acknowledging how the force of our days persists in the company of the dying. And how those disruptions are sometimes what can help carry us, sustain us through the experience, realign our spirit, or afford us reprieve."
The poem's humour is an entry point into things more poignant, those lived in the moment and those to come. The repeated phrase "Is that MY ..." is notably both lively and haunting. Not only can it be read as comic disavowal of that which embarrasses, but it could also signify a genuine struggle to remember as beloved everyday presences and activities grow smaller and fade. At the same time, perhaps one can cope as things unfold and unspool, not unlike that jaunty final image.

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