My friend, John, passed along the following poem to me.
He has been reading of my travails with Professor Jiggs. Because he knows both the dog and me very well, he knew that I would appreciate the poem.
Poems are usually blog death. They should not be. Well-executed poems rely on conservation of language to tell us something about the human condition -- whether new or old.
Though this is a Romanian poem about oxen, the application to the universal human condition strikes me as obvious.
Thanks, John. The poem means more than you can know -- as my perro viego lies next to my feet breathing hard in the tropical air, dreaming of when he could run.
by Ileana Malanciouiu, translated from the Romanian by W. D. Snodgrass
I walk on a dark road so that I won't see
The way my young oxen limp so much;
The horseshoes gouging into their hooves,
They're frightened at the earth's least touch.
Time to time, they kneel down in their yoke;
I'd prod them on but I'm too weak at heart.
They look at me mildly, yet, on their own,
As if at a signal, struggle up then and start.
Only at midnight I bring them to a halt,
Untie them for a while, then stand and wait
With the village dogs all barking at me
Outside the old blacksmith's gate.
With both arms I hold their legs up, one by one,
Pressing my palm to their hooves, finding
Which side they have been limping on,
And where the bones, worn down, need binding.
Through the fire, the old man passes nails,
Settles each into its place, pounding it in then;
And when the nails bend, stabbing into the flesh,
Pries them, blood-stained, back out again,
Hammers them straight, then drives them in.
He asks me who I am and where I'm bound.
And then, deciding if I can get that far,
He makes the team stand on solid ground,
Helps yoke them up and get them on the road.
They trudge along, limping at first and slow.
The dogs keep barking a while, then let us be.
And the wounds heal themselves as on they go.