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The following is a reprint by permission from Rich Rowand, one of the owners/writers for Recipe Du Jour.  It appeared in one of their great newsletters.

He Wanted To See Another Fall

"A number of years ago, Barbara Washburn called me. Her friend was suffering through the loss of a dog. Barbara wanted to write something for her friend, a memorial of sorts, but found she could not.  “Write it for me, Rich,” she asked.  “The dog, I think, just wanted to see another fall.  He hung in there trying to wait for fall.  That’s when he was most alive.”  I balked.  I’d never written anything like that on demand.  She pleaded.  I ended up telling her I’d try, that I would make no promises.  But I would try. 

"That night I hooked the leash on Kubie’s collar.  Kubie was Kubla Khan, the mongrel, a private joke.  I used to tell people I’d named her Kubla Khan in case we ever got a second dog, which we would call Ollie.  Kubla Khan and Ollie.  Anyway, I took Kubie out for our nightly walk and thought about this new project.  It was to be a poem.  I decided it should be free form so I could alter the rhythm, mimicking the different ways leaves fall.  I also thought it should have internal or sporadic rhyme because rhyme reinforces rhythm and has a way of accenting images when used that way.  And I was very clinical when I started thinking about the images I would try to use and what they would mean.  I thought about all these things and more; but when I got back home and sat down to write, none of the words would come.  I didn’t know that dog.  I didn’t know the woman.  I didn’t know what words I could say that would soften her pain.  Write a memorial to a dog I didn’t know?  I put off calling Barbara to tell her I couldn’t do it.

"It was on another walk, when I wasn’t trying, when I’d already given up on the project, that I watched Kubie.  I had taken her leash off and let her stretch her long legs.  She rolled in the grass.  She spotted a rabbit and tore after it, almost catching the animal before it dove into dense underbrush.  She shook her head and took off running again, running for the sheer pleasure of it.  And I started to think of what it would be like when she got older.  We tend to believe our pets will live as long as we do even though we know better.  But this night I slipped into a shadow of sorts where I could see the future, the day when Kubie would run no more.  The intensity of the moment was such that I cried, as if I’d already lost her.  When we got back to the house I started writing." 

He Wanted To See Another Fall
by Richard Rowand

He wanted to see another fall, that’s all,
another bit of the brisk and biting air
that he could tear through,
snapping the frosted grass.
He wanted his nose shot up at the sky.
He wanted, before he died, to bite at his cold breath,
rub his sleek rump in the rough leaves one last time --
in a mad dash.

Between the first thaw and the first of fall
is a turn of the head, is a shimmying roll
in the green grass, that’s all.
A moment or two and the leaves mold.
We would hold him,
but the summer passes and curls through our hands
as would smoke on a cold and windy day.
Such is the way that we loved him...
quickly...inevitably.

(There is a time in a leaf’s life,
in a cold shaft of winter’s sun,
when the leaf in its cycle is dying.
The wind whips a final time
and the leaf loses its hold.
It carries away that part of the tree
which was its own pale self.)

And fall was all of a sudden here this year.
Before we had the plants in, there was frost.
There were fast flights from thinning trees.
And what was just the day before a breeze
was wind come cold and insistent,
leaving the air as still and heavy as damp stone.

If I were the drayman of Death
I would whip my horses forward.
I would have foam from their mouths.
I would come and be gone by daylight
in a creaking and crashing of wagon
and a thudding of hooves.
I would have him gone quickly...
as quickly as summer was gone.

He wanted to see another fall, that’s all,
another bit of the brisk and biting air.
He saw a final autumn.
And the noise at the door is a rustle of wind
which once was swept through
by him.

Copyright © Rich Rowland

"Barbara loved the poem, as did her friend.  I was quite pleased with it myself, despite its faults.  Kubie lived to be 16 and I was holding her when she died.  These days I walk Hershey in the evenings.  She loves her walks more than anything except maybe sleep and treats.  She perks up when autumn arrives, watching each leaf fall as if it might be something to chase."

Thanks for letting us reprint this letter!  It will touch a special corner of the heart of everyone who has lost a  specially beloved dog.  Mine was Cuca.  When she died, I realized that the summer of my life had passed, too.

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