the hole (reprise)

Poem #23 from: Memoir of a Dog (final)

Back to Memoir of a Dog – Introduction

and today it ends
it’s over

I’m standing in a hole
in a garden bed
at the back of the house
I couldn’t bring myself
to make the journey with the rest of them
for the coup de gras

we are carrying our grief

at least his struggle is over
and he doesn’t have to try to find breath
where there is no air
he doesn’t have to try to live
when living is too hard

the hole
is up to mid-calf
but I’ve got to go
a long way deeper yet
they will be here soon and sparky
that wonderful
ill-fated poodle
deserves a deep grave
so I am hurling the crowbar
with all my strength
into resistant soil
that is mostly clay
crumbling rock
and crushing despair

it’s hard work
and I can’t see
what it is that I’m doing
because I am crying
while I prepare
the first grave
I’ve ever had to dig
for a loved one

they have arrived
she backs the station wagon
to the gate
and he is lying on one of our best blankets
looks peaceful
with his eyes closed

we cover him and he is
surprisingly heavy when I raise him
in my arms
and carry him to the hole I have dug
lay him as gently as I can

we have chosen a nice spot
beneath a tree
in the back garden that was home to him
and after a moment
I begin covering the blanket
with a layer of dirt
until it has disappeared
and the hole
is filled

he is gone
we are all crying
each alone
and I think my heart
has finally broken

cross and flower 30%

© Frank Prem 2009


things it’s not possible to borrow

Poem #22 from: Memoir of a Dog

Back to Memoir of a Dog – Introduction

borrowed time

what an idea

time passes just one way
from front to back

it runs out

that’s what I’ve always thought


we bobbled along after sparky recovered
from the operation
a quiet household
gratefully silent while silence meant
nothing else
nothing new
could happen to us

we managed a few months like that

borrowed hours
borrowed days and weeks
months on loan until he couldn’t breathe

one day he was in trouble
and he couldn’t breathe

coughing and wheezing
in distress

all of us in distress
looking at each other
not wanting to hear what we could see
see what we could hear

there’s a kind of membrane around the heart
it’s called a sac
the pericardial sac

the vet said it was filling up
with blood
the poor bastard’s heart
was choking itself to death

nothing to be done to save him
no clear cause
sometimes these things just happen

take him home
love him for one more night
bring him back tomorrow
and I’ll put him down
give him some peace

where on this good earth
can any of us
find peace

god help us

god help me

© Frank Prem 2009

Memoir of a Dog Poem 23: the hole (reprise)

accidental destruction save for the dog

Poem #21 from: Memoir of a Dog

Back to Memoir of a Dog – Introduction

I would like to tell you
something uplifting

I would like to give you
a sense that
even for such a disaster-laden
disarrayed group as we had become
remained a possibility
however remote

could I offer that the sick one
might recover
that the surly rebel
the number two
would re-enter the house one day
to embrace us with tears and joy
can I suggest
I hesitate but
can I suggest that we
she and I
might look across the dining room
or the width of the bed
bump into each other in a corridor
and smile

or that the dog
our sparky poodle
might return to his pre-attack splendour
and our lives recommence
with hope and anticipation
with tail-wagging


I can only tell you that I dreamed dreams
some nights
dreams that took me back
to better days
and made me smile
then frown
as I dreamed them

that I dreamed dreams
on other nights
of accidental destruction
and death
that left just me
alive and alone
in the world
relieved of my burdens

save only for the dog
I would try to dream that the dog
was saved

it sometimes seemed that
in those dreams
the accident
and the destruction
was all me

on some nights
I could not tell

© Frank Prem 2009

Memoir of a Dog Poem 22: things it’s not possible to borrow

subtle theft and mild healing

Poem #20 from: Memoir of a Dog

Back to Memoir of a Dog – Introduction

it’s taken weeks and you can tell
he’s been a sick pooch
but the tube has been withdrawn
his wounds have healed

the wool is growing over scars
that seem to have been etched deep
inside each of us

we are wounded
and carry ourselves protectively
shying from sudden noises
lying sleepless again at night
and yet the dog
who remains the best of us
he most of all
seems to be trying to be his old self

he can’t quite walk with his usual assurance
the bouncy step that signalled
his ease in the world
his confidence and interest
he is trying

his recovery
our witness to it
is painful
and no matter how healthy he becomes
another piece has been stolen
from us
and we will never replace it
not ever

broken ball 30%

© Frank Prem 2009

Memoir of a Dog Poem 21: accidental destruction save for the dog

how much more (on a night like this)

Poem #19 from: Memoir of a Dog

Back to Memoir of a Dog – Introduction

eventually even the worst of things
if persistent
becomes normality

normality of a kind

the two of us are alone now
utterly alone
our children lost to us

one claimed by an illness
that has left him a shell
the other by a reaction
that has closed him off
inside the brooding of his anger

both unreachable

and we

the blessed relief of routine
is salvation

and so the shopping is done
the house is cleaned
work is attended semi-regularly
silence is the new medium


the phone call is a panic

it’s the dog


something has happened to the dog
something about an attack a big dog the vet

oh my god


he comes home a day or so later
emergency surgery
the malamout just picked him up
gave a shake
discarded him
leash and all

it wasn’t even a fight

touch and go if he’ll live

there are tubes draining him

we are stunned
how much more
god god how much more
how much

the silent brooder
the one who taught sparky
to use the kennel
has emerged
still not saying much but he is there
his place is beside the dog
all night
sleeping on the floor

at least the two of us can try to rest
knowing we’ll be called if needed



it’s in the middle of a night
like this one
that I could seriously contemplate
what I’ve never really thought before

how much more

© Frank Prem 2009

Memoir of a Dog Poem 20: subtle theft and mild healing

uncomplaining in the midst of contraction

Poem #18 from: Memoir of a Dog

Back to Memoir of a Dog – Introduction

the weeks have blurred us
exhausted whatever it was that we had left
to act as strength

there was so little to begin with

there is no room to think
good thoughts
bad thoughts
thoughts of disappearance
of running

no room

the world has contracted
inwards upon itself


work has beckoned
though there is nothing of value to do

small tasks need attention
though there is no mind involved
in their performance

we don’t like to watch him
our boy
all the time
don’t like to cry
all the time
don’t like to think the thoughts
of helplessness and defeat
don’t like the odour in our air
that might turn into the death
no-one will speak of

don’t like to look at each other
with so little recognition
so much despair


sparky has adopted a demeanour
I think he’s depressed
when he’s inside the house with us
so much sadness in his eyes
I can hardly look at him

he perks up on the street
strains at the leash with enthusiasm
it’s almost possible to forget the details
although the mood never lifts

my mood never lifts

god help me I jerked him from his feet
when he didn’t deserve it
but he didn’t complain

sparky never complains
he just licks his lips
and smiles
waiting for us to change

if only we knew how

© Frank Prem 2009

Memoir of a Dog Poem 19: how much more (on a night like this)

emergency placements

Poem #17 from: Memoir of a Dog

Back to Memoir of a Dog – Introduction

he likes it with the neighbours
there’s another dog to play with
he’s no trouble
he’ll be okay

they’ll walk him if we’re not back
by tomorrow

do whatever you need to do
don’t worry about him
he’ll be fine

sparky doesn’t look so sure
but he’ll settle fast
he’s good like that
and he knows when there’s
something wrong

like now
there’s something wrong
and we promise we’ll keep in touch
keep our friends informed
it could be a very long night


dog bed 30%



suitcase 30%.jpg


he likes it at his friend’s place
there’s a kid from his class to play with
and they get on well
they’ll feed him
get him off to school
pick him up and bring him home
if we don’t get back

he’ll be fine
go to where you need to be

let us know

he doesn’t look our way
knows that something’s wrong
if he ignores it
it might go away
or grow smaller

kiss goodbye
then off into the darkness

chase the ambulance
wait the long hours
in emergency

think how only yesterday
seemed almost all right

© Frank Prem 2009

Memoir of a Dog Poem 18: uncomplaining in the midst of contraction

the dark side of goodnight

Poem #16 from: Memoir of a Dog

Back to Memoir of a Dog – Introduction

in the darkness
there is only the one
green light
bathing the room
from the stereo

the house is silent
I couldn’t hear a thing anyway

I’m in another world

headphones have turned me
into an escapee
in a world of music
loud enough to blow my brain
into a non-thinking space
of songs sung
about release and freedom

I’m trying not to sing out loud
don’t want to wake the sleeping

the dog is lying
on the floor
head on my feet
he has no way to understand
but when I reach my hand
to stroke him
it’s another reason why
I can’t leave
despite what the singers
on my records tell me
until it’s maybe two o’clock
when I take myself to bed
a little drunk
sober enough
to pat the dog
and walk eight steps of corridor

avoid the creaking boards
and edge into
the dark side of the bed


wineglass and headphones 33%

© Frank Prem 2009

Memoir of a Dog Poem 17: emergency placements

a definition of us

Poem #15 from: Memoir of a Dog

Back to Memoir of a Dog – Introduction

time changes everything

we have sold the property at daylesford
our vigour
once unflagging
has dissipated in the demanding whirl
of jobs and pressure
stress and weariness

the days dissolve
between one struggle and the next
while we insulate ourselves
to ensure survival

these times are the busiest of our lives
and we are daily challenged
to meet demands
never before encountered
to master them

and despite success
the stealthy creep of alone-ness
makes its presence half-felt
in a crowd of fellow workers
with friends at frenetic after-work parties
on friday nights
around the dinner table at home
when there are four conversations
happening at once
and no-one listening
except the dog
ever hopeful that someone will break the rules
to feed him a tid-bit
beneath the table

in these days we are each comforted
by the constancy and loyalty
the intelligence in his eyes and the open smile
that’s always there for us on the big poodle’s face

sometimes he seems the only thing
we all have in common
that we all love without restraint
the part of our family
that binds us together

hard to imagine
how we would cope
if he weren’t with us

hard to imagine

table with ball 30%

© Frank Prem 2009

Memoir of a Dog Poem 16: the dark side of goodnight

from each the same

Poem #14 from: Memoir of a Dog

Back to Memoir of a Dog – Introduction

tail up
a bark and a smile
that’s all tongue and teeth
it’s good to be alive

let’s go

run like a fool
with another on the roam
a game of tag
to bowl each other over

the wind
has nothing on a dog
on a beach
when the leash is left behind

just run
cry out in a bark of joy
it’s good to be alive
down on the sand at mentone
in the springtime


we often come down here
for a walk in the evening
let the dog off the leash
to run

he’s a mad thing
a tearaway
fast as a greyhound and untiring

obsessed with the ball
he snaps at the air
while I tease him
making him wait until I swat the ball
with a tennis racket
out into the bay
he swims well
but has to see where the ball went
or he gets lost and disoriented

a mile or two along the beach and back
is a gentle stroll
that curves around the bay
with a view uninterrupted
until frankston

the wind blows
helps to clear my mind
while we walk
never really together anymore

I drop back
by myself
a few steps off the pace
prefer to think my thoughts alone

but the dog doesn’t distinguish
he just wants the ball to be hit
drops it
in front of the nearest set of feet
then frets
until he gets a response

I look at him
all happiness
unconditional in his love and loyalty
like a simpleton
expecting the same from the rest of his group

why would it be otherwise

I don’t suppose he’s ever felt
wouldn’t understand it

standing in the wind
watching the water
and the dog playing with us all
I feel like weeping

© Frank Prem 2009

Memoir of a Dog Poem 15: a definition of us