Reteach a Thing its Loveliness

“…sometimes it is necessary/ to reteach a thing its loveliness,/ to put a hand on its brow…/ and retell it in words and in touch/ it is lovely/ until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing/ as St. Francis/ put his hand on the creased forehead/ of the sow…” Galway Kinnell

I’m not sure which I prefer—
a dog-ruined couch
felted with fur and saliva,
my heart unfurled
by that dog’s head on my lap,
mother-loneliness ruined
by unblinking brown eyes,
child-starved fingers sated
by silken ears and skull,
his musky scent a welcome
pocket of ancient wilderness
inside my home,

or this clean couch,
spotless but for drips
of coffee here and there,
bread crumbs tucked
in corded seams,
its arms stained
with my arms’ oils,
my heart in solitary repose
considering a poem
by Galway Kinnell
called “St. Francis
and the Sow,”
while my dog rests
over there on his bed,
his chin on the low
window sill, peering out,
a palm of morning light
upon his brow.

2021

2 Responses to “Reteach a Thing its Loveliness”

  1. Denna Weber says:

    Rachel- to reteach oneself of its worthiness I may be difficult when one has been stomped & betrayed by its bloodline. Would we rather ignore the possibility, tend to cleaning our closets and copying worksheets- or be ready for our Calvary? Hmmm. Amazing how it only takes trading letters. The cavalry can run over, shoot to kill- a sort of soul murder. Once you said God will see me through.” We don’t need spotless robes, just warmth and a pat on the brow

    • wordweed says:

      Your response has got me thinking. I too have pondered the closeness of the words Calvary and cavalry (in fact, the way people seem to confuse the two spellings was glaring in the recent impeachment trial, as prosecutors sorted through Tweets to determine the intent of the capitol insurrection. A Trump supporter had tweeted they’d be “bringing the Calvary,” and the prosecutors read it aloud as “cavalry,” since the poster has confused the spellings in prior posts! The difference, of course, is huge!)

      But, yes, reteaching someone their loveliness isn’t an easy task, especially if that one has been abused. But in this poem, this particular rescued stray dog, who used to be neurotic and frightened when I adopted him, and who happened to be sitting under a window as I read Kinnell’s poem, has seemed to have received the blessing of his own loveliness, and he reteaches me about mine every day in a difficult time. He may not be placing his paw on my brow, but the effect is the same…

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