Kittatinny Jake

The sun has been up for hours,
I sip coffee on the deck, unaware;
In an unguarded moment
Kittatinny Jake gives a furtive glance around
And slips silently under the fence
To join his cadre, a pack of Goldens-
Wild puppies-the oldest about a year

Four little fur balls-
The neighborhood gang of four-
Meet as by prearrangement
By an abandoned garbage can at #12.
They lick each other's noses, sniff parts,
And take off,
Unleashed, unfettered, and unfenced

Dashing up the hill,
They shrug off shrubbery and graze on greenery,
Terrorize mailmen and children waiting for the school bus,
Send cats into cardiac arrest--
Sniffing their way around the comer,
Sounding their barbaric yips in voices not deepened yet,
Sure-footed, they head into the woods, ears dancing in unison

A gaggle of Goldens, let loose upon the world,
Launching themselves over logs,
Foraging on deer droppings and pizza crusts,
Flighting-up a flock of turkeys,
And chasing chipmunks into holes;
Squirrels dive for cover or scamper up trees,
Pack their nuts and head south-
Legs spinning madly, getting into high gear,
A peloton of puppies, nosing into the unknown,
All of it a profound mystery

With Kittatinny Jake in the lead,
They bore through briars and bound over boulders,
Pouncing into puddles;
Along Jake's side comes Roscoe Jones,
Growling softly, nudging Jake's shoulder;
There is a low muttering back and forth.
Could this be an alpha dog challenge?
A bid for takeover of the pack?
Roscoe has two pounds on Jake,
And a smile that would melt a dog catcher's resolve.
But Jake is fast and quickly maneuvers away,
A sharp feint to the left, and he darts through the swamp,
Scattering pools of sunlight,
Suddenly awash with sky--
Splashing his way back to the lead

Suddenly a doe and a fawn
Cut right across their path;
Without hesitation,
The posse is unified as one now,
In hot pursuit of live prey;
They advance at full speed,
Tails chasing tails,
With a primordial yip--
Defying identification,
Awesome in its eeriness--
Continue some twenty feet and collapse in a heap:
A golden pile of paws, noses, tails-
All one--
Until the licking and stumbling sorts itself out-
A snout for every tail, four furry paws apiece

Gradually they upright themselves,
And slowly set off again,
Sauntering back to civilization,
Trotting in formation, a whirlwind of wagging.
The whole proud peleton approaches boldly;
Covered with burrs, mud, and
Every imaginable manner of muck

They circle the perimeter of my yard now--
Like the last lap of the Tour de Fence,
Kittatinny Jake cautiously loosens the links
Only he knows about,
Slides back into the yard,
And stretches out luxuriously in the soft grass
Basking in the warmth of the sunlight,
Giving a contented thump of his tail

by Elaine Koplow

BARKS Poetry Contest winner

Elaine Koplow is an active member of the Writers' Roundtable and has written for various audiences for many years. Several of her poems appear in Voices From Here, a regional anthology of poets in the New York/New Jersey area. Writers who have influenced her include Dylan Thomas, Sharon Olds, and Linda Pasten.

Elaine says of her writing, "Often what inspires me begins as an ordinary, even mundane occurrence, that then becomes a defining moment in our lives."

Born in Washington, DC., she attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin where she worked as a union organizer before moving to New Jersey and teaching high school English. Elaine lives in northwest New Jersey in the Kittatinny Mountains with her dog, where she writes and enjoys the great outdoors.