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One Thing That Love Is

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This is longer than many poems on PoetrySoup.  But it's only 1052 words.  Most of the lines are short - this is Free Verse, after all.  If you love dogs and have patience, then no problem.  If you like dogs and have even just 2 or 3 minutes right now, great.

Even if those don't apply to you, you're here already, so please read it.  

ANY criticism is fine with me.  You don't have to pull punches or be extra nice or not say something because of the normal way PoetrySoup is.  Fire away - it's all good with me, and I will not take offense and I will give you the best answer I can.

Everything here is true
Just as stated
because it's already happened
or - it has yet to occur - 
but it's very soon to occur
and I have such strong feeling
that the future will be as I see it
as you read this
that in the end I will be proven right.
You are that occurrence
you are happening
and I think you will understand.

Love is a dog
on a chain
in a muddy yard
on a cold day
in a silent town
where the land slopes
down to a river.

It's the end of autumn
or the beginning of winter
and the silence is tidal
total
and you know that things are not right
under the sky of hard iron
between all the old buildings
of red faded brick
that were made when labor and materials were cheap.

Big old buildings all squares and rectangles
former warehouses
tenements that saw many families
hotels of a prior age
offices where she used to work
where he ran the elevator
where they came and went
but now nobody is walking
no vehicles move on the streets
it was just me.

And the dog.

There is more about the place
it could have been in a movie
with the camera panning around
capturing aspects of vertigo and dread
a province of scary infirmity
that makes you think
you are dreaming
because you've had dreams before
and you've seen horror movies before
but you know there's no such escape
not a dream not a movie
and the dog is real.
Lonely. Thirsty. Hungry. Cold.

It wasn't always that way
not the dog
not the town.
Long ago the Continental Army
was headquartered here
in the American Revolution
and the city thrived
into the future
lots of transportation
and manufacturing
through the 1800s
but then river traffic fell to almost nothing
railroads and trucks took over
companies and people moved south and overseas
and the town grew quiet.

Now it's the cold season
the silence of an endless cold season
almost monochromatic under that iron sky
all black and white or in-between
except for the fading red 
of the bricks in those big old buildings.

This is where the owners
love the dog part of the time.

This is where a pigeon steps 
on a little discarded plastic ring 
from a jug of milk
and the ring stands up
above the ground
where a cold wind blows torn candy wrappers around your feet
near the chain link fences
the dirty concrete with moss growing in the cracks
where branches show against the sky
from dark tree trunks
by the wrought metal railing
that has caught a plastic bag
that was blown by the wind.

The silence.

You feel the lack
the absence of bird calls
coming down in rivulets and chips of silver
showing they are alive.
It's not to be this day
the silence holds sway
life seems more of an echo.
Any faint smile
of the sun
shows false in the shadows.

The dog didn't make a sound either.

I'm tempted to end right here
but no
we haven't really gotten to the love part yet.
Sure - maybe they loved the dog some
maybe the owner was sick or old
or just couldn't care for it much anymore
or they had grown up and moved away
while the dog remained.

Long ago there was the Telephone Company of New York
and through buyouts, governmentally enforced divestitures, and mergers 
it later became Metropolitan Telephone and Telegraph Company
then American Bell Telephone Company
New York Telephone
NYNEX
Bell Atlantic
and now we know it as Verizon.

The dog was real.

The town is Newburgh, New York, USA
and it does slope down to a river
the Hudson River
and the old buildings
latent
waiting
bear witness.

I was there in the late 1990s
when it was called NYNEX and then Bell Atlantic.
The old telephone building still had the places
where the switchboard operators 
would sit with earphones on
listening to call requests, or
they manually plugged in wires
to connect incoming calls
with house telephones
in the local exchange.
A light would glow
on the bottom row
of their array
and they'd connect a wire
from the plug-in hole by the light
to number 0313 for example
if that was the number in the exchange
that the caller wanted.

The materials were beautiful
all the hardwoods
fiber, metal and cloth
high-quality stuff
that hadn't been used since 
the late 1960s.
The lattices were still there
the wire pairs
for each number
ten thousand at a time
i.e. 0000 to 9999
those wire pairs
had their brackets
from where they went all the way to people's houses
the hard wired connection.

You're with me now
there's nobody else
nobody from the telephone company
and I have the door code for the electronic lock.

We exit the building
and the dog is looking at us
from the lonely cold muddy yard 
behind the next old rectangle of faded red bricks
there is something there
not much
not real hope
but dark eyes upon us
some wonder some... something...
no sound.

The dog never makes a sound.
You see one of the shames of my life.

I go over to my truck and drive away.

It wasn't that the dog just couldn't make a sound.
It didn't quickly raise its head
it didn't jump up or
come toward me 
as far as the chain would let it
or at least tilt its head
questioningly
as if I might present some hope.

There is love
but it was so far away from that dog
that all was silent
the most terrible silence.

So now I'm a 57 year old man
sitting here crying because I could have gotten that dog a good home
or I could have called somebody who would do that
you should see me crying
or I could have just called somebody
or I could have gotten that dog something good to eat
and some water
oh dog I'm sorry
I could have knocked on the door 
and asked about the dog
and offered to help
you should see me crying I'm a mess
I could have gone over
and hugged the dog
and said oh dog
it's okay
you're a good dog

Copyright © | Year Posted 2016




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Date: 5/4/2017 9:06:00 AM
Dear Doug. Good Morning. Your writing ability shine. Never did you fall off track or stray even with the length. The incorporation of NY the 1990's and Bell Atlantic was a nice touch. However without a doubt this entry belongs to the dog and the love this creature and being provides. Your words reach that element and fact. Never do you miss the mark of humanity Doug. This entry is one to be read slowly to capture the words. Bless the dog and bless your pen always. Have a wonderful day.
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Doug Vinson
Date: 5/5/2017 10:19:00 AM
Thank you, Lisa. Like another world it was....
Date: 2/3/2017 8:09:00 AM
Congrats Doug, for having your work featured in the Poetrysoup homepage!!! ;-)
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Doug Vinson
Date: 5/5/2017 10:18:00 AM
Thanks, Teddy. : )
Date: 12/25/2016 9:30:00 AM
To me it always will be vital To Give Jesus His appropriate title Son of God and savior of us all In manager born in a stall. Now you finish it. Jim Horn
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Doug Vinson
Date: 12/26/2016 3:11:00 PM
Nights are white, and snow is blown, No seed is sown, no bird has flown, Is it right - we must atone, We want to think we're not alone.
Date: 12/8/2016 11:57:00 AM
Wonderfully sad and heart wrenching story, Doug. I'm a lifelong dog owner, so I felt the vibe of this poem instantly. I love history, any type of history, so the digression to the telephone history was very informative. It also gave a ghostly overlay of long ago crowds placed on top of the eerie emptiness and silence. Great poetry right there. As you said, there are poems within poems, themes within themes. A very touching poem, worthy of POTW. Love always, my poetic friend.
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Doug Vinson
Date: 12/8/2016 12:05:00 PM
All right then, RW, I owe you one for such a nice comment. It really was an eerie place - made you look around and wonder what was going on; no sound.
Date: 12/6/2016 8:13:00 AM
Some people are more affected by dogs than other humans, and rightfully so, it only speaks to their kind nature and goes to show how they wrap themselves to the very core of our hearts, especially chained up, neglected ones. An amazing overview, superbly taunting imagery. A haunting memory, so well written.
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Doug Vinson
Date: 12/6/2016 8:48:00 AM
Wow, quite a comment, Paloma. I really appreciate that.
Date: 12/5/2016 7:40:00 AM
- Congratulations on your p.o.t.w. - // Anne-Lise :)
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Doug Vinson
Date: 12/5/2016 7:48:00 AM
Thank you, Anne-Lise. It was one of those things that "needed to be written" - I have thought of that dog so many times over the past 20 years... Here's to loving all the good creatures of the earth as well as our fellow humans.
Date: 12/4/2016 5:39:00 PM
Good job!!! Congrats on being chosen for the week....
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Doug Vinson
Date: 12/5/2016 12:48:00 AM
Thanks, Bernard. : )
Date: 12/4/2016 6:12:00 AM
Cont- Off to read this piece again. It is well worth a 2nd read and another read after that: -) Alexis
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Date: 12/4/2016 6:10:00 AM
WoW! Doug, you have penned an epic piece for sure. It was such a captivating narrative that drew the reader in to every word. I have not had a personal relationship with a dog as an adult. But I did as a child( I wrote about that dog in a poem entitled "Big Red") so I have experienced the love of a dog. I totally get why you got such an honor. Congratulations on getting the poem of the week. A without a doubt seven:-) Alexis
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Doug Vinson
Date: 12/4/2016 8:21:00 AM
It looks like the poem about Big Red has run off, though....
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Doug Vinson
Date: 12/4/2016 8:14:00 AM
Thank you, Alexis. : ) I will go and see Big Red.
Date: 12/2/2016 11:43:00 AM
That's weird I posted a comment earlier but it seems to have vanished. With this one you had me at "love is a dog" "God is Love" is the perfect mirror image. I like how dog was omnipresent through the piece. A clever and engaging piece of writing.
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Doug Vinson
Date: 12/2/2016 2:09:00 PM
Thanks, Richard. I'm in a big old industrial building right now. Wish I could go outside and see that dog.
Date: 12/2/2016 9:28:00 AM
It seems the arch is at a high point here and for good reason. This piece blew me away, brought me back and wrenched tears from my eyes. I am a dog owner but it wasn't so much the dog, it was the entire feel of this piece. Though, something like that would haunt me as well. The what ifs always do. But it is the overall feeling of loneliness portrayed that has taken me this morning. And perhaps that feeling is the haunting of the dog, but dogs aren't like that. They love you no matter what.
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Darren White
Date: 12/2/2016 11:42:00 AM
They also should do reverse order for the comments, now you have to read from bottom to top, lol
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Chris Green
Date: 12/2/2016 9:50:00 AM
I need to learn that reverse order rule. :)
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Doug Vinson
Date: 12/2/2016 9:43:00 AM
Yeah, the 400 character limit is nasty, just plain back-stabbing, horticulturally nasty. I've taken to writing out long responses in their entirety, then breaking them up to get under 400, while trying to maintain a good overall look. Then you gotta post the pieces in reverse order....
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Doug Vinson
Date: 12/2/2016 9:40:00 AM
Chris, thank you. You are such a good guy. I am so glad you read it. Your reply, same as for every phrase that would even think about getting halfway near your pen, is a 7.
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Chris Green
Date: 12/2/2016 9:36:00 AM
(Cont'd 2) And upon seeing it you think all of your questions have been answered, when probably they weren't. This piece was fantastic Doug. P.S. It is aggravating to have to count out characters in these comment boxes. I hope all of this makes sense.
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Chris Green
Date: 12/2/2016 9:34:00 AM
(cont’d) Reading this was a discovery to me, like finding an old photograph album that is not yours, perusing the black and whites of strangers and even stranger places and imagining what life was like, the joys, the hardships, every day mundane duties and how they felt about their lives. Were they happy, angry, and then you find the last photo is of the dog.
Date: 12/2/2016 8:54:00 AM
I won't read epics about humans, humans are twits, but, throw in a dog and I'm all eyes. Many layers crunching underfoot as I trampled through this one. As Kurt V would say, "So it goes." Thanks for sharing and congrats on capturing my declining attention span;-) ~ john
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Doug Vinson
Date: 12/2/2016 9:02:00 AM
Ahoy, John. : ) I was talking with my buddy the other day, and we agreed that we could shoot a lot of people, like you say - some are just such twits. But no dogs. And I know that sounds really harsh, about the shooting, and we have no plans to do any such thing. I was really the comparison between humans and dogs.
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Doug Vinson
Date: 12/2/2016 8:56:00 AM
Darren, thank you, my friend. (Actually, I already changed one word today. ; ) It was late last night, and I just puked it out, so to speak. Really needed to write that one, though today my muscles are sore from sobbing. And even in the midst of all that, I wondered about it being too long.
Date: 12/2/2016 8:41:00 AM
NO, it couldn't have been a lot shorter, because there's not a word too many there... You captivated me, you made me cry, and I could see the whole of it happen right in front of my eyes, like a film. Brilliantly imaginative...
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Doug Vinson
Date: 12/2/2016 8:56:00 AM
Darren, thank you, my friend. (Actually, I already changed one word today. ; ) It was late last night, and I just puked it out, so to speak. Really needed to write that one, though today my muscles are sore from sobbing. And even in the midst of all that, I wondered about it being too long.
Date: 12/2/2016 8:19:00 AM
You are too young and the reason too important so you are allowed to cry my friend, Doug! I read your beautiful and captivating narration partly because I love dogs as well! Loved the story!
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Doug Vinson
Date: 12/2/2016 8:28:00 AM
: ) Demetrios. I think of the 'youth' of our dogs - so many of their lifetimes go by while one of ours does.
Date: 12/2/2016 8:01:00 AM
WOW Doug this was an epic story penned so brilliantly you drew me the reader into the tale - such a vivid descriptive emotional poem - into my faves:-) hugs Jan xx
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Doug Vinson
Date: 12/2/2016 8:26:00 AM
Jan, thank you so much. 20 years later, it's not like I walk around always crying about it. But that dog does haunt me.
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Doug Vinson
Date: 12/2/2016 8:21:00 AM
Cheers, Probir. We can go forward, having learned from the past, but there's no going back to fix sad things.
Date: 12/2/2016 4:21:00 AM
The inexorable dog ... the inescapable fog ... very well written free verse ... our life and environment in a flux of time ...
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Doug Vinson
Date: 12/2/2016 8:21:00 AM
Cheers, Probir. We can go forward, having learned from the past, but there's no going back to fix sad things.
Date: 12/2/2016 3:49:00 AM
Great descriptions , more like a short story very emotional as well , can't knock it great piece . stephen
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Doug Vinson
Date: 12/2/2016 8:18:00 AM
Thanks, Stephen. I can still feel the silence and those old buildings around me.
Date: 12/2/2016 3:04:00 AM
I'm a dog lover and I did not know what to expect. You circled around with all the descriptions but the dog was always there in that silent world.
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Doug Vinson
Date: 12/5/2016 12:50:00 AM
" a captive animal held to the point where its spirit is dead or dying" - ouch, but that's a perfect way to say it. Makes me dizzy....
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Christina Baughman
Date: 12/2/2016 9:50:00 AM
That is one of the most heartbreaking things to me - a captive animal held to the point where its spirit is dead or dying.
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Doug Vinson
Date: 12/2/2016 8:15:00 AM
Hi Christina. Yes, and it could be a lot shorter. I'm tempted to make another poem without the town-specific stuff. Plenty of time for that. To get sort of mystical about it, I wish I could cut down the time that has passed, cut it down to nothing, and do something for the dog.