For The White Dog In Turkey

You followed me down a weedy brick path on a steep hillside
     In Samsun, Turkey,

The wind swirling around us like a dervish.
     I heard the soft tattoos of your padded footfalls

Tap out a warning before I turned to look at you,
     Remembering the advice of a friend:

"Don’t pet the dogs around here," He said, "They run wild from the
Villages. It’s best to avoid them."

               So I did.

But first I saw the wind lift the delicate hairs of your white fur
     As if it could almost taste them,

The wolfish aspect of your hungry face
     With one paw raised whenever I stopped to look back at you.

What did you want to ask me, dear fleeting ghost?

     Could I have answered you?

          Why does fear keep turning into sorrow?

When I reached the highway, I didn’t look back again.
     Instead I took the crumbling sidewalk into town.

How could we know I’d be pulling you off the road an hour later,
     Feeling the seeping tug of your perfect limbs

As I laid you down beside it like a shattered offering?
     You looked like you were about to smile,

Licking the pink ribs of your mouth with the furl of your tongue.
     Now I wish I had reached out to you,

I wish I had tried to say something to you, even it,
     The Turkish word for dog.

I wish I had told you how shining you were on that barren hillside,
     Following me like the glow of a flickering candle–

How I came to almost love you in the closing gap between us,
     How even before you were killed I knew I would not forget you.

Instead I’m side-swept by a sudden, lonely grief
     That takes me all the way down to the Black Sea

Out into the sky beyond on the updraft of a question
     No one can answer, with just a shred of passing cloud

          To lay bare all there is.

Robert Vivian

About the poet: Robert Vivian is currently teaching at Ondokus Mayiz University in Samsun, Turkey, as part of his sabbatical from Alma College. His first books include Cold Snap As Yearning, a collection of meditative essays, and The Mover Of Bones, a novel which is Part I of the Tall Grass Trilogy, to be published by the University of Nebraska Press.