A dog has died
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.
Some day I’ll join him right there,
but now he’s gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I’ll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.
Ai, I’ll not speak of sadness here on earth,
of having lost a companion
who was never servile.
His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine
withholding its authority,
was the friendship of a star, aloof,
with no more intimacy than was called for,
with no exaggerations:
he never climbed all over my clothes
filling me full of his hair or his mange,
he never rubbed up against my knee
like other dogs obsessed with sex.
No, my dog used to gaze at me,
paying me the attention I need,
the attention required
to make a vain person like me understand
that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
he’d keep on gazing at me
with a look that reserved for me alone
all his sweet and shaggy life,
always near me, never troubling me,
and asking nothing.
Ai, how many times have I envied his tail
as we walked together on the shores of the sea
in the lonely winter of Isla Negra
where the wintering birds filled the sky
and my hairy dog was jumping about
full of the voltage of the sea’s movement:
my wandering dog, sniffing away
with his golden tail held high,
face to face with the ocean’s spray.
Joyful, joyful, joyful,
as only dogs know how to be happy
with only the autonomy
of their shameless spirit.
There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,
and we don’t now and never did lie to each other.
So now he’s gone and I buried him,
and that’s all there is to it.
Translated, from the Spanish, by Alfred Yankauer
(Sourced from: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/a-dog-has-died/)
Why I Love This Poem
I have had dogs for most of my life.
Even now, I feel a void in my existence without one.
And I love Neruda. I imagine him as uncle Pablo. He has such a beautiful mastery of language, yet he is very matter of fact.
I can imagine strolling with him through the streets of Santiago or Paris, talking extraordinarily about the ordinary!
This poem reminds me of dogs I have been privileged to have in my life. That I have loved and have loved me. You only need to sit with a dog on your lap, contemplating life, to comprehend a simple yet full and total bliss.
I am reminded of play, of the freedom to be myself – never being judged or judging.
‘A dog has died’ also transports me back to moments of deep sadness and loneliness with only my dog has my companion – who listened and somehow was deeply empathic.Even now I weep.
Yet when, one by one my dogs died, there is a practical aspect to it, they must be buried and mourned. But life goes on.
Neruda surely felt the same about his dog. Deep connection, love and affection, yet in the end, moving on.
All relationships shape us. I learnt much about empathy from my dogs. Much about non-verbal communication too.
That is all there is to it. And that is why I love ‘A dog has died’.
What do you think of ‘A dog has died’?
What memories do you have of the animal companions that you have had?
In what ways have those relationships shaped you?
What are your favorite poems and why do you love them?
I would really love to share them. (and if you don’t currently read poetry, this is a perfect time to start)