This is part of a DIY education project I’ve undertaken called The 1000-Day MFA that I learned about from writer Shaunta Grimes. You can read more about how I’m engaging with it here. By the way, there might be no rhyme or reason to how I choose the poems, essays, and short stories. Or they might, like today, have a theme. But basically, I just throw my net out to the world, and read whatever I catch.
by Mary Oliver
by Mary Oliver
by O. Henry
The First Time Percy Came Back:
I have loved my dogs in my life. I have loved them hard, and lost them all eventually. There are those sacred moments that came after, sometimes decades after, where they come back to me. Last year I dreamed that my Roshi came back to me. The reunion felt so real in the dream that I still feel like it really happened on some ethereal level. Anyway, Mary Oliver gives us a moment in her life with her beloved Percy. Click here for a rare 2015 recording of her reading the poem.
You can find this essay in the same book as the poem, The First Time Percy Came Back (Dog Songs). Honoring the wildness in dogs, she describes her walk with Ben. "He is ahead of me in the fields, poking about in the grass. By the time I reach him the last of the newborn field mice are disappearing down his throat. His eyes roll upward to read my mood--praise, amusement or disapproval--but I only touch his head casually and walk on."
In this piece, Mary Oliver offers us a precious moment looking at the world of dogs through her eyes.
Memoirs of a Yellow Dog:
And this is O. Henry offering us a look at the world of people through a dog's eyes.
I never knew it was a pseudonym. He was born William Sydney Porter in 1862, and he lived the kind of life I'm shocked nobody's made a movie of yet. (Or is that more ignorance on my part?) He was a licensed pharmacist by the age of nineteen. He went on to be a shepherd, a babysitter, a musician. He got into journalism and banking. But he was terrible at the banking thing, and ended up doing five years of prison time.
He eventually found his way to writing, and thank God for all of us he did. This particular short story is told by a dog, and introduced me to O. Henry's sharp, biting style. He's hilarious.
For years, I've let my ignorance shame me into not only hiding it, but keeping it safe and strong. But now I've opened the door and there's no going back.
This 1000-day MFA project is letting it see the light of day, pushing it outside, letting it climb trees, learn new names, new stories, new ways of writing.
For dog lovers everywhere, this poem, this essay, this story is for you.