Off-Leash. Dorothy Mahoney. Palimpsest Press. Windsor, Ontario. 2016
Dorothy Mahoney's Off-Leash is an unassuming, candid, considered treatise of canine experience and wisdom, much of it from the muzzles of the beasts themselves. Mahoney has accomplished what legions of sci-fi fans, futurists and pet lovers have long imagined but yet to master - she can speak Dog.
A Rottweiler between the stoic couple
of American Gothic, lean a
Pekinese into the arms of Mona Lisa, or yet,
substitute the heads of dogs for humans, or
paint by number the large-eyed dog on velvet.
There will always be dogs playing poker,
or nodding on the dashboard
of a slow-moving Chevy, a wooden
silhouette of a dog hunches over
a patchy lawn, dogs barking Christmas carols,
the bowling sweaters my mother knit
with hunting dogs and rising pheasants,
ceramic Scotties ready to shake
salt and pepper from their heads.
Our newest staff member Odin was all over this book. After reading Off-Leash Odin handed it back to me with a bit of a scowl, he insisted that if I didn't write about Dorothy Mahoney's barkingly brilliant book that he would bite me. Then he growled a little bit.
Off-Leash isn't that attention loving puppy always anxious to jump up onto your lap. These are older dog poems, experienced dogs, very literate dogs. Dorothy Mahoney does that perfect thing, these poems transport the reader, however briefly, to a world where that barrier to complete understanding
between beast and biped has been rendered moot.
The reason employed by Mahoney and her canine ambassadors is unassailable.
When you're a Cairn Terrier in the witch's castle
there is much to fear:
shut in a basket,
the winged monkey told to drown you,
the mammoth guards, their marching feet,
the draw bridge closing,
the widening chasm
There's wind, smoke, fire.
In all that is a dream:
spinning house, poppy fields,
man behind a curtain;
there's your girl lost
on a yellow road
with no one else to guide her.
Who hasn't worried about being drowned by winged monkeys?
Off-Leash is consistently entertaining as Mahoney susses out what is really important to our four legged friends. It turns out that our concerns are not that different.
It's a dog's life, But which dog? Today's book of poetry is pretty sure that Queen E's pooches make it through the day a little differently than Prince, the white Boxer across the street, or Bruce, his British Bulldog buddy with the football obsession and the skin condition.
Mahoney's dogs are like us, varied, complex and searching. And sometimes they just need to take a good sniff around. For some of us it's a good bone, a warm hearth and the smelly feet of the master we love. Other dogs need the space to run, to chase wind, rabbit and reason simply because they can.
You are the reminder of my mortality,
pulling me along
as you race ahead
advancing beyond my own age
in dog years
to reach the end of your lead
to fall behind
when I have settled completely
into step with you.
That there might be others
seems startling now,
that I am the witness of your age
marking time with your name
How many of my own years have I myself forgotten
yet you marked mornings by meals and walks
when only the sun was waking.
while you lingered wistfully
at each tree and corner watchful-
wary of what I could not see.
Today's book of poetry thinks these doggy tales are universal and only the best poems manage that. Dorothy Mahoney has done a remarkable job with Off-Leash, she's crossed a species language barrier and made poetry out of that. Beautiful.
Every dog owner out there should read this book. And then read it to your dog.
ABOUT THE AUTHORDorothy Mahoney is the author of two poetry collections, Through Painted Skies and Returning to the Point. Her poetry has been included in numerous anthologies, most recently appearing in Detours: An Anthology of Poets from Windsor and Essex County. Palimpsest Press released Off-Leash in 2016. A retired teacher, she resides in Windsor, Ontario.
"Mahoney writes about dogs as if dogs matter; and the strength and tenderness of her poetry convinces us that they do. Her poems write dogs into the human psyche, into history. They invite humans to enter the canine realm. Beautifully paced, there is nothing coy or sentimental about this collection, just best words next to best words in the best order, just "a dog next to a dog next to a dog."
- Arleen Pare
Black Moss Press Block
video: Black Moss
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