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Grace Among the Ferns
by Analicia Sotelo

The ferns—sharp lime green, lean over 
the concrete like a woman over a boardwalk
on a bright spring day like this, though maybe it is better 
with Grace’s curious nose assessing the damp earth
while ignoring its copious lizards. 
There is joy in the soft butt
of a dog disappearing into its daily necessities.
I am not sure I have ever had such a joy, 
either in discovery or expectation. Looking out
over the side of a boat
with a hat as wide as this fern 
is Grace, of the delicate paws.
I have never liked it: The Spring. But this is the 
end of Spring! First yellow of summer. They say a poet 
can never write a purely happy poem about a dog 
greeting the sun and what it has done to rain.
I don’t know about that. 
I am light like a canine’s memory; 
a minute, a world. Where one of the greatest 
and most daring feats is to enjoy 
the breeze’s slow boat of fertilization
made by other dogs of other years—the scent of
living in and of itself. Grace among the ferns
likes to place her body right over the pulpit 
of the last dog, so they know. I am here, too. Living.
Lime green ribbons touch her soft, wet nose.


typing prompt

Current Writing Prompt

“They say a poet
can never write a purely happy poem about a dog
greeting the sun and what it has done to rain.
I don’t know about that."

so writes Analicia Sotelo in her poem “Grace Among the Ferns”

Does that hold true for the two dogs who author (or are the voice) in these poems read by Billy Collins? (watch video)

In talking about his poems, Collins says that putting a dog into a poem makes it harder to avoid the sentimental. The dog voices in "The Dog on His Master" and "The Revenant" seem to be able to do it, though neither is "purely happy."

 I am the dog you put to sleep,
as you like to call the needle of oblivion,
come back to tell you this simple thing:
I never liked you — not one bit.”

The dog in Mark Doty's, “Golden Retrievals” (from Sweet Machine) I imagine being his golden retriever, Beau, who he wrote about in Dog Years: A Memoir (P.S.) who along with his black lab partner, Arden, helped Mark through a very dark period in his life. Beau uses a sonnet form.

On their walk, the dog is full of joy and in the moment. But the poet?

"... Either you’re sunk in the past, half our walk,
thinking of what you never can bring back,
or else you’re off in some fog concerning
—tomorrow, is that what you call it? My work:
to unsnare time’s warp (and woof!), retrieving,
my haze-headed friend, you. This shining bark,
a Zen master’s bronzy gong, calls you here,
entirely, now: bow-wow, bow-wow, bow-wow.

In "Grace Among the Ferns, "our model poem on the website for this month's prompt, the poet envies the dog. Grace, who like Beau in Doty's poem, finds delight in exploring the late spring ferns. The poet says:  

"I am not sure I have ever had such a joy,
either in discovery or expectation..."

The call for submissions for May is a dog poem in the voice of the dog. Let's take Collins' warning about over sentimentality into account. Let's remember the joy and Zen of Beau and Grace. You don't have to have ever owned a dog to know the voice of one - but having a dog that owned you will certainly change how to approach this prompt.

 


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The deadline for submissions to our next issue is Saturday, May 31, 2022
Please refer to our submission guidelines and look at our archive of more than two decades of prompts and poems, and our blog for much more about the prompts and poetry.