Anne Ballard

Black Dog

He’s grey now, grown old in my service:
werehound with inflamed, gummy eyes
who lopes head down, wheezing.
Together, grown stiff and slower,
we walk the dank ways. He can sniff out,
find for me, anything rotten or dead.

He has a wild streak, will leave me
for long jaunts alone; returns
when I call, hears that high whistle
beyond my ears. At other times
he comes without warning
as if I dream him awake:
then he’s eager, bounds at me barking,
fetches his leash, woos me
till I’m recaptured.

I no longer fear him, have learned
to welcome him, my dog-for-life.
He’s good news, brings renewal,
makes me pause
give myself full attention,
go to earth in his lair,
while he curls at my side, offering
long ears to be stroked, twitching
with possibilities.

He will see me out.
While he lives, so can I.

Anne Ballard recently returned to Edinburgh after many years in London. Her poems have appeared in Acumen, Orbis, Magma, The Interpreter’s House, Artemis and elsewhere. She won first prize in the Poetry on the Lake Competition 2015 and 2018.
Her pamphlet Family Division was published by in 2015.