Dog in Winter

by Hugh Anderson
Desert Moon Review
Third Place, March 2014
Judged by Robert Lee Brewer

The cold has trapped her too long
sprawled on the hearth rug, twitching
and yipping in squirrel filled dreaming.
Though I am loath to abandon my book
and easy chair, I uncloset her leash
and dance her excitement out the door.

Something about frozen ground
and print-pocked snow must capture scent,
for though she strains for the familiar destination,
each post, each tree, each clump of icy grass
demands she sniff its story to the end.

Finally: the hundred stairs, the beach.
The sky is glass, cold sun a distant beam
shot through it. Freed from her leash,
she skates across the springs that slid
across the sand and froze below
the ice-fanged bluffs. She starts at seaweed
tumbled from a windy tide, half-crisp,
its salt still liquid, water turned ice.

Where the salt is thicker and the tide
just ebbed, the sand is soft and ridged
with echoes of the recent waves.
Here the dog stops sniffing and runs,
full of the energy of space, of earth that gives
when her paws push down, sprays generously
when she leans into a high speed turn. Her tail
is a flag of joy, her breath bursts out in clouds.

She stops and faces the wind, nostrils flaring.
The sky is crystal, the earth rock.
Here in this half land of recent sea,
she is ancient and unleashed.

On one level, this is a simple "walking the dog" poem, right? The narrator doesn't even want to get up and "abandon my book" at the beginning. However, what grabs me is the transformation that happens over the course of this poem as it 1) transforms from a poem about the narrator to a poem about the dog and 2) the dog transforms from a creature dependent on the narrator to a creature "ancient and unleashed." --Robert Lee Brewer