Linda Pastan

This Dog | 4 AM
April 25, 2017 Pastan Linda

This Dog


Maybe I’ve chosen life—not just
the life of this dog I’ve rescued
from the shelter, but

my own life, mired in the same
books—Anna, Elizabeth,
Jane, the same

solitary walks– no tugging–
the doctors’ offices changed now
to cacophony at the vet’s.

I’ve chosen disruption and broken
sleep and the poetry of barking–
what does each growl mean?

how to parse the hidden syllables
of dogs, this dog? Maybe
it wasn’t a choice at all.




4 AM


I was the child until
my mother died;
now I’m the child again

afraid in the night
and sleep as elusive
as the past I cling to.

Old age is all
about saving what’s left–
my father’s heavy watch,

each tick a heartbeat,
my mother’s initialed handkerchiefs
still scenting the drawer.

Buttons without
their button holes.
Combs with missing teeth.

I try to keep awake
all day, to sleep at night,
with only the dog

for company– his weight
at my feet holding me
to the earth.

But the sheets are tangled ghosts
waiting to dress me
in their ironed robes.

Linda Pastan was Poet Laureate of Maryland from 1991-1995.  In 2003 she won the Ruth Lilly Prize for lifetime achievement. Her book, Insomnia,  came out in 2015 and A Dog Runs Through It in 2018. Almost An Elegy: New and Later Selected Poems, will be published in 2022.