One good Billy Collins poem deserves another. (His first line must allude to Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s great dog poem, “Dog.”) Alas, I’m afraid Collins is right to imply that even dogs don’t quite manage to escape karma and the wheel of samsara. Blame those damned cats!
The way the dog trots out the front door
without a hat or an umbrella,
without any money
or the keys to her dog house
never fails to fill the saucer of my heart
with milky admiration.
Who provides a finer example
of a life without encumbrance—
Thoreau in his curtainless hut
with a single plate, a single spoon?
Ghandi with his staff and his holy diapers?
Off she goes into the material world
with nothing but her brown coat
and her modest blue collar,
following only her wet nose,
the twin portals of her steady breathing,
followed only by the plume of her tail.
If only she did not shove the cat aside
and eat all his food
what a model of self-containment she would be,
what a paragon of earthly detachment.
If only she were not so eager
for a rub behind the ears,
so acrobatic in her welcomes,
if only I were not her god.
Here’s a sweet animated video that accompanies the poet’s reading of this poem.