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Loyal

They gave him an overdose
of anesthetic, and its fog
shut down his heart in seconds.
I tried to hold him, but he was 
somewhere else. For so much love
one of the principals is missing,
it's no wonder we confuse love
with longing. Oh I was thick 
with both. I wanted my dog
to live forever and while I was
working on impossibilities
I wanted to live forever, too.
I wanted company and to be alone.
I wanted to know how they trash
a stiff ninety-five-pound dog
and I paid them to do it
and not tell me. What else?
I wanted a letter of apology
delivered by decrepit hand,
by someone shattered for each time
I'd had to eat pure pain. I wanted
to weep, not "like a baby,"
in gulps and breath-stretching
howls, but steadily, like an adult,
according to the fiction
that there is work to be done,
and almost inconsolably.

—William Matthews

from Selected Poems and Translations 1969-1991, 1992
Houghton Mifflin, New York, NY

Copyright 1992 by William Matthews.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin from Selected Poems and Translations 1969-1991, 1992. Copyright 1992 by William Matthews. For further permissions information, contact Ronald Hussey, Permissions Manager, Houghton Mifflin, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

William Matthews (1942–1997) was the author of 11 poetry collections, including Time and Money (1996), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. Search Party: Collected Poems of William Matthews, was published posthumously by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2004.

Learn more about William Matthews at The Poetry Foundation.