playing hard ball

Poem #9 from: Memoir of a Dog

Back to Memoir of a Dog – Introduction


he is tense
quivering in expectation
eyes fixed on a point
in front of him

on an object
half-hidden
beneath my foot

I fake a move to the left
his head darts that way
the body not so easily fooled
coiled tight but unmoving

the dog
sparky
is still young
but he is full-grown
his head the height of my hips

he is an illusion of size
appearing solid beneath his thick coat
but underneath
he’s thin
as rangy as a whippet
the creamy odour of lanoline
a strange characteristic
of this woollen dog

another fake
this time forces a bounce forward
and a bark
of joyous frustration

he likes this game
the build-up of tension
before I perform a genuine kick
that sends him bounding in pursuit
to the very depths of the back yard
it’s not easy to grin
around the sides of a tennis ball
but he tries
for now he has control
and it’s my turn to do some hard work
and get the ball back

bouncing ball 30%


© Frank Prem 2009

Memoir of a Dog Poem 10: tba

knock before entering

Poem #8 from: Memoir of a Dog

Back to Memoir of a Dog – Introduction


a cardboard sign
tacked to the lamp-post says

home-made kennels
all sizes
16 barnard street

~

well
it’s big enough
and we’ve made it comfortable
but
he doesn’t want anything to do with it

we’ve tried enticing
toys
nibbles
tricks

push and shove

he won’t enter
won’t stay

seems to feel we’re inflicting
an unpleasantness

time to use plan b
if only we had one

this should’ve been easy

~

our youngest has disappeared

so has the dog

fast initiation of the quick search
we’ve perfected

murmurings are detected
from the vicinity
of the kennel

soothing sounds
reassuring

the boy has taken upon himself
the habituation of dog and kennel

they both look warm and comfortable
though perhaps
a little too snug

kennel 30%


© Frank Prem 2009

Memoir of a Dog Poem 9: Search No search term specified. Showing recent items. Search or use up and down arrow keys to select an item. playing hard ball

some poodles turn grey

Poem #7 from: Memoir of a Dog

Back to Memoir of a Dog – Introduction


they made a movie
about hanging rock

schoolgirls clambering up the path
surrounded by some kind of eeriness
before they disappeared without a trace
somewhere near the summit

it’s supposed to be haunted
whether by white ghosts or aboriginal spirits
I’ve never been sure

but
I do know it’s a great place for a picnic
only a couple of hours north of the city
and that’s where we’re heading for a day out

the station wagon is getting a little old now
starting to need an oil top-up between regular servicing
but it’s worked well for us with our two small kids
room for all the luggage in the back
easy to access

now
of course
we move around a little differently
have to arrange the travelling things
so that they leave a clear space
in the centre
room for sparky to sit
with his head resting on the seatback
in between the boys
where they can pat him on the muzzle
murmur gentle words to him
in exchange for a lick
before he turns around three times
and settles to sleep
he’s a pretty good traveller

~

it’s unusual
sparky can’t seem to settle down on the drive
he looks distinctly out of sorts

yips occasionally

we wonder if he may be ailing
speak words of comfort to him

doesn’t seem to help much

~

the sparkler is sitting up
waiting for release when the tailgate is raised
he’s shivering
and looks distinctly uncomfortable

a pat on the flank as the leash is attached
feels moist
slippery

there is oil on my fingers
and the freshly washed dog
is a dirty colour

the carpet in the back of the car
is soaked and dark
the plastic container of motor oil
lies on its side
minus the lid

~

well
what can you do

wipe the dog down
with a towel
un-drown the luggage
pull the carpet out

look at each other

anyone for a picnic


© Frank Prem 2009

Memoir of a Dog Poem 8: knock before entering

the escapologist

Poem #6 from: Memoir of a Dog

Back to Memoir of a Dog – Introduction


okay

have you looked everywhere inside
every room

right
well one of you boys needs to
go through each room a second time please

what about outside

whoever’s not doing inside
please go right around the yard
make sure you look inside the shed

then both of you come back here
and wait

if you’ll check the neighbours
I’ll get in the car and start doing the streets
in the neighbourhood

let’s go

~

I thought he’d be too big
but it looks like
he’s slithered under the fence somehow
gone for a wander

the panic is unbelievable
kids howling
urgency and fear

it’s amazing how much impact
there’s been
from the thought of losing him
or of him coming to harm

every one of us is feeling guilty

where would a young dog go
how do you think like a woofer

left here

right

right again

back on the main drag

straight ahead

mobile phone
no news
no joy

turn right

nothing

~

the dinner table
is silent
except for an occasional
moist sniff

we’ve done all we can
call the pound in the morning
with a description
and not a lot of hope

the boys can’t see their dinner

our eyes are red too
it’s hard to take in
the extent of the loss
sparky’s disappearance

this will be a hard night

~

the knocker on the front door
is a solid-brass banger
it echoes through the silence
makes us jump
look fearfully at each other
for a moment
we’re on edge

it’s a neighbour we don’t know
apart from a hello
in passing
lives three doors down

do you own a young dog
a white poodle

I thought so

I found him looking lost
out on the footpath earlier
there was no-one home here
so I put him inside at my place
and we’ve had a wonderful time
he’s a marvellous dog

here he is

he really is beautiful isn’t he

that’s all right
think nothing of it

I’d hate to see something happen
to such a lovely dog

what’s his name

ah
mr sparky is it

that’s lovely
it suits him

see you later

the kids are all over him

we don’t know whether to laugh
or cry

such a relief
but first thing in the morning
I’ll check the fence-line for any more
potential escape holes

this is not going to happen
a second time

hole under fence 35%.jpg


© Frank Prem 2009

Memoir of a Dog Poem 7: some poodles turn grey

a small correction

Poem #5 from: Memoir of a Dog

Back to Memoir of a Dog – Introduction


Listen to Frank reading A Small Correction on SoundCloud here.


world war two
was supposed to have finished
a long time ago
but one troop commander
must have escaped

she stands in the centre
of a circle of us
all obedient and attentive
wondering what will happen here today

~

this is a miserable day
and I’ve come poorly prepared

the grass is slippery
soggy underfoot
and my canvas runners
are thirsty
or so it seems

meanwhile
she has barked us
into some sort of order
reduced the more timid
to whimpers
seems unlikely to be influenced
by my wet socks

~

owners
this chain I am holding
is not
and must never be referred to
as a ‘choker’

it is a ‘correction’ chain
and it will be your most important aid
in the training of your dog

it is not cruel to use a ‘correction’ chain
and if anyone has a contrary view
they should leave now

other than dog noises
and traffic
all is silence

obviously
this woman doesn’t take prisoners
they only slow the advance

very well
I want each of you
to make a loop
as I am doing and put it around the animal’s neck
like this

note now
how easily it slides
in response to your use of the leash

~

sparky is wandering
within the confines of the lead
to sniff and explore
fascinated by the dog-dom around him

others are barking
straining
jostling their owners

handlers
commence walking around the circle
.
.
.
.
YOU THERE
the pinscher

do not allow your dog
to run amok in that manner
‘correct’ him immediately

no no no
he did not feel that and will not respond

everybody
watch me now
I will demonstrate

well crikey

she’s gone over
grabbed the leash
shouted HEEL
and given a huge tug on the choker

yanked the mutt right off its feet
until he’s slightly behind her
front feet in the air
looking stunned

now observe
the dog has been brought to heel
he should not walk in front of his master or mistress
also you will note
that when I hold him like this
for a few moments
he is completely in my control

he cannot continue a disobedience

she dropped the dogs’ legs
applied a hand
to push his backside down
and voila
the pooch is sitting
dazed and confused
but sitting
right where he’s supposed to be

wow

ok sparky
let’s go

~

by lesson’s end
we too can demonstrate the benefits
of obedience
and correction

class
r-r-r-e-e-e-leased

correction chain 30%


© Frank Prem 2009

Memoir of a Dog Poem 6: the escapologist

too young for latte, too small to build

Poem #4 from: Memoir of a Dog

Back to Memoir of a Dog – Introduction


he’s fascinating

short bursts
of a kind of leaping
ungainly run

sleep
piddle poo
then
running again

none of us
want to leave him alone
our new ball of fluff

he laughs at us

runs again

~

we’re in the middle of extensions

tradesmen and their tools
are everywhere
on makeshift floors
scattered between wall-frames

and he’s amongst them
the working man’s dog

too cute to be a nuisance
but a constant worry
in case he falls into some dark place
or gets stepped on

looks proud
of the wood-shavings
in his coat

~
coffee break

we sit
to take in
the afternoon sun
legs hanging
over the unfinished edge
of the flooring
tired from the day so far

a yelp

a cough

a sneeze

seems our sparky
thought the coffee
should be equally available
to all

his muzzle is wet
and brown
a cup is overturned

and he looks astounded

sneezes again

perhaps we should have
percolated
to better suit him

spilt coffee 30%


© Frank Prem 2009

Memoir of a Dog Poem 5: a small correction

naming the purchase

Poem #3 from: Memoir of a Dog

Back to Memoir of a Dog – Introduction


kids
this is just for a look
okay

we’re not going to buy a pup
so don’t expect
to be coming home with one

we just want to check them out

these kennels are in the country
an hour out of the city

it’s a fine day for a drive
so
there’s nothing to be lost

besides
poodles are wussy dogs
all pom-poms
and head-dress

that’s not what we want

they yap too much

~

I think this guy
the breeder
is gay

maybe you have to be
to breed poodles

no ‘minis’ or ‘toys’ available
right now
but
come inside

meet the ‘standards’
they have pups that are ready

~

I’ve never been appraised
quite like this

these dogs are laughing at me
with their eyes

they’re white and beautiful
but
that’s beside the point
the male
has me by the sleeve
is tugging me
to come away with him
to play a game

the female is making friends
with the boys

they don’t yap
these guys have a serious bark

real dogs
not stuffed toys

and
they really are
beautiful

~

talking to the breeder
the dogs watch us
interested in our conversation

he says

one of the pups
a male
is champion quality
but I want to show his brother

I could sell him to you
but not with papers
I don’t want the one I sell
to turn up in competitions

he’s special
american stock
not white but cream
he’ll have apricot-coloured hairs
in amongst the wool
when he grows

that’s unique over here

I can sell you clippers
and tell you how to groom him
you don’t have to give him a lion cut
just let him be a woolly dog
if you prefer

would you like him

~

a little white fluff-ball
in a box

we can’t quite believe
what we’ve done

these are big dogs
we wanted small

he’ll need more looking after
than we’d planned to do

oh well

satellite comet power

what a name for a woofer

we can’t have that

comet

pow-wow

‘lectric

no

none of those

pluto

uranus (ho ho adult joke)

.
.
.
.

what about ‘sparky’

.
.
.
.

sparky

yes that’ll do
for mr satellite comet power

sparky
will do

comet 35%


© Frank Prem 2009

Memoir of a Dog Poem 4: too young for latte, too small to build

selection process: narrowing the field

Poem #2 from: Memoir of a Dog

Back to Memoir of a Dog – Introduction


we had the debate
agreed
it was time

the kids were demanding
it would be good for them
they needed something
couldn’t be a cat though
too much allergy in the air

so
something that wouldn’t shed
that could live inside
let’s not fool ourselves
it will definitely be inside

okay
one that has wool
needs to be something small
a toy
or a miniature

something the boys
can look after
this is not a plaything
and they’re old enough
to have some responsibilities

is that understood kids

yes

yes

right
next
the magazines
to select what kind

good lord

there’s so many
to pick from

how will we ever decide

dog magazines 30%


© Frank Prem 2009

Memoir of a Dog Poem 3: naming the purchase

the hole

Poem #1 from: Memoir of a Dog

Back to Memoir of a Dog – Introduction


when I was a child
my first dog
was a black lab-cross
called sandy

I never knew
why we named him that
but that’s what he was

we had a few dogs
over the years
but that first one
is the one I remember

the one that was my mate
went with me
everywhere
out after the bunnies
riding the bike
walking in the bush

I cried when he died
thought my heart had broken

~

today

today
I’m standing in a hole
in a garden bed
at the back of the house

the hole
is up to mid-calf
but I’ve got to go
a long way deeper yet
I am hurling the crowbar
with all my strength
into soil that’s mostly clay
and crumbling rock

it’s hard work
and I can’t see
what I’m doing

I am crying

while I prepare
the first grave
I’ve ever had to dig
for a loved one

I think my heart
may finally
have broken

crowbar and mound - 35%


© Frank Prem 2009

Memoir of a Dog Poem 2: selection process: narrowing the field

Memoir of A Dog – Introduction

Memoir of A Dog was my third, and most recent, self-published poetry collection. The previous collections are Small Town Kid and The Book of Evenings. A review of the book was kindly written up by Christopher T. George in The Loch Raven Review.

This collection presents the story of a young family – rise and fall – told around the adventure and experience of having a dog as a loved member of their family.

There are 23 pieces in the collection, and I’m delighted to have been able to include the charming illustrations provided for the collection by Leanne Murphy who I’m privileged to have as wife and partner in all my enterprises.

I hope you enjoy this series of poems about one family’s life, and their dog.

Memoir of A Dog Poem #1: the hole