Friday, May 19, 2017

#231: "Thirteen Ways Of Looking At A Pit Bull" by Reuben Jackson

~This poem was previously published in Clockworks (2011).


Among twenty sleeping row houses,

The only restless thing

Was the voice of the Pit Bull


I was of three headaches

Like a neighborhood in which there are as many

Pit Bulls.


The Pit Bull paced in the dealer’s yard.

It was but a small part

Of my anxiety.


A man and his dog are one.

A hustler, his stash

And a loyal Pit Bull

Are frightening .


I do not know which to prefer:

The disdain of neighbors

Or the disdain of neighbors.

The Pit Bull breeding-

Or the policeman rolling his eyes.



Rain covered the picture window

With a posse of tear drops.

The ghosts of battered Pit Bulls

Crossed it to and fro

The mood traced in the shadows

Followed me into sleep.


O longtime brothers of Brightwood-

Why do you secretly long for Chocolate Labs?

Do you not see how the Pit Bull

Sits at the feet of the players

Around you?


I know quieter cities,

and black men with unconquered livers.

But I know, too,

That the Pit Bull is involved in

What I wish I didn’t know.


When the Pit Bull strode in the shadows-

It turned the asphalt into a pungent river.


The sight of a Pit Bull charging down Madison

Would make even the most ardent dog lover

Surrender the sidewalk.


He traveled the city

In a quiet subway.

Once, a fear pierced him

In that he mistook a sister’s ringtone

For that of a Pit Bull.


The block is silent.

The Pit Bull and his owner

Must be away.


It was evening all afternoon

And it was going to rain.

The folorn Pit Bull sat in his

Dog house.




The inspiration for this piece is twofold: Wallace Stevens’ shadowy and lyrical "Thirteen Ways Of Looking At A Blackbird,” and some notes I began taking while observing  a former neighbor in my hometown of Washington, D.C.  I think Stevens’ poem is a sublime meditation on the subject and the environment in which it exists, so I wanted to use his vehicle (think of a jazz musician working off of pre-existing chord structures) to examine various emotional responses to the aforementioned neighbor.



Reuben Jackson lives in Winooski, Vermont—where he hosts Friday Night Jazz on Vermont Public Radio, and works as a mentor with the Young Writers Project. His poetry has appeared in 30 anthologies, journals like Gargoyle and The Indiana Review, and a volume of poetry entitled “fingering the keys.”

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