Monday, May 8, 2017

May 8: Poet of the Week, James Scannell McCormick, "Dog"

James Scannell McCormick is the Poet of the Week.

I went to school with Scannell way back in the early 1990s, when he was running marathons and finishing up his PhD in creative writing at Western Michigan University.  He was one of my favorite people during my time in Kalamazoo.  Funny and Catholic and Irish.  We really hit it off.

The last communication I had with Scannell was right before I got married.  We sent him an invitation to the wedding, and he sent back a beautiful card.  Then he sort of disappeared from my life, the way friends do sometimes.

I came across a poem online a few days ago, and it brought back a storm of wonderful memories.

So Saint Marty is going to embrace those memories for a week.

(Intermezzo for Charlie)
by:  James Scannell McCormick

It’s all in the left hand, says your mistress. Brahms
Is all in the left hand. Why does she bother
With the piano at all, Charlie, you stretching from flews
To dewclaws on the sleepy carpet, and your leash hanging
So unoccupied behind the door?  Hot August afternoons and scent
Of the salt sea—those are the days that should
Be yours, dog:  your pushed-in muzzle was bred for
No good reason except to gnaw your rump and stub
Of tail, to snap at the frenzied buzz of rainbow
Scarabs.  Shaking the phlegm from your eyes, you’re the guardian
Of Belmont Heights, of the quiet limit of the world.
Hey, Boo!  Hey, Booger!  Hey, Monkey-face, Pig-face! calls
Your master, who makes skinned tennis balls drop miraculously from
The absolute blue of heaven. Why shouldn’t the whole world
Be Monterey jack in your dish, chew toys and scairdy-
Cats, Thai-beef morsels, watchbands, and ice-cubes that you
Take so delicately in your underbiting jaws?  You live in
A truer grace: Good boy! Yeah! What a good boy!

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