“Loyal” by William Matthews
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
They gave him an overdose of anesthetic, and its fog shut down his heart in seconds. I tried to hold him, but he was somewhere else. For so much love one of the principals is missing, it's no wonder we confuse love with longing. Oh I was thick with both. I wanted my dog to live forever and while I was working on impossibilities I wanted to live forever, too. I wanted company and to be alone. I wanted to know how they trash a stiff ninety-five-pound dog and I paid them to do it and not tell me. What else? I wanted a letter of apology delivered by decrepit hand, by someone shattered for each time I'd had to eat pure pain. I wanted to weep, not "like a baby," in gulps and breath-stretching howls, but steadily, like an adult, according to the fiction that there is work to be done, and almost inconsolably.
from Selected Poems and Translations 1969-1991, 1992
Houghton Mifflin, New York, NY
Copyright 1992 by William Matthews.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin from Selected Poems and Translations 1969-1991, 1992. Copyright 1992 by William Matthews. For further permissions information, contact Ronald Hussey, Permissions Manager, Houghton Mifflin, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003.
About the Poet
William Matthews (1942–1997) was the author of 11 poetry collections, including Time and Money (1996), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. Search Party: Collected Poems of William Matthews, was published posthumously by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2004.
Learn more about William Matthews at The Poetry Foundation.