Slow Black Dog

by David W. McFadden

copyright ©David W. McFadden 2007

Meditating in the back
of Jack’s green Volkswagen
rolling along Highway 2
east of Paris

I’m conscious only of the motion
of things speeding against me
on both sides of my head,
eyes closed, and a sudden braking

and a breaking of that dream.
I’m in a moving car among green hills
and cow grazings of the world,
motels, gas stations of Ontario

and a dog slowly walking across
into our speeding lane, a black dog,
and in tall grass at roadside, a boy,
waving his arms, screaming.

Notes on the Poem

We miss terribly David McFadden's wry, observant, mischievous voice, so adept at pulling us into stories and worlds. How grateful we are to have collections of his work where that voice runs like a strong current, such as Why Are You So Sad?, the 2008 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted work in which "Slow Black Dog" is found. The 2008 Griffin Poetry Prize judges encapsulated beautifully the charms of McFadden's poetry:
"Like his hero William Blake, he lives at ease among the most supernatural of events, and gazes in wonderment at everyday things. As a poet he reminds you to be yourself, to be yourself in the world, and give it a chance to amaze you. While reading his beautiful clear language, you sense that he is a trickster, but you cannot help believing every stanza he writes."
In "Slow Black Dog", McFadden tells a story plainly, accenting it with small but striking touches. The green of the car brightens the first stanza, echoed by the green hills in the third stanza. Motion and how fast that motion unfolds is captured succinctly. And then oh! "a sudden braking and a breaking of that dream." The irresistible frisson of this deceptively simple poem is that you, the reader are jolted too. Wisely and generously, McFadden lets you decide which way your heart leaps - in sorrow or in joy.

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