In praise of greyhounds

Louise Wakeling

“The world exists through the understanding of dogs” – Friedrich Nietzsche

your average greyhound sprawls, elegantly out of it, 
tongue caged or lolling between teeth – unless 
organic chicken is on offer in the kitchen, or ears 
need fondling. stuck like glue, he’s ‘there for you’ 
as much as chicken. you read him, too, touch base, 
entwine your lives 

the neighbour’s marauding cat is up a tree or hissing 
like a gremlin on the pergola, but greys won’t deign 
to notice. sighthounds anchored to the horizontal, 
they’re not about to pine for things aloft – too much bother. 
ever the realist, they won’t make eye contact 
even when the cat’s on pause above them, grimacing, 
eyes big and saucer-shaped as an owl’s startled by light  

but on the ground, old instincts kicking in, a sudden flight 
of feline scrambling among fallen leaves will do it: 
your fireside companion – placid mien and ‘peace, man’ ways – 
is all pursuit, pounces with a gaping jaw, 
keen to rend to scraps any feline’s grand delusions 

something of a cat-dog himself, he’ll let you know 
it’s not his business to actually guard your place, 
or warn you of strangers. dog-tired is his invention – 
he’s cultivated fifty ways of lying doggo – 
but if thunder calls or smoke alarms go off 
you’ll find him heading for the exit 

greyhounds don’t pontificate, they’re too intent 
on kicking up quintessences of dust in some 
quiet corner of the yard.  The racetrack’s
a distant memory, the muzzle de-commissioned, 
that former life remembered only when a cat 
presumes to bask in your backyard, or on comatose nights 
when memory shakes a threadbare tail and thumps 
its mad pursuit of something unattainable 

it’s then your longboi whimpers in his sleep, dreaming
maybe of bones thrown carelessly among his fellows 
in the kennels, or that half-life in a cage, hauled up 
by the collar to race, the diminishing pack 
yanked out and dispensed with, unprofitable. 
a winner on the track, he’s one of the lucky ones 
not shipped abroad to race his last, re-packaged 
as meat, or shovelled into a mass grave 

all that’s in the past. this fellow couch-potato, 
this nose-worker, smooth talker without words, 
eyes that grapple you to his soul – he’s learnt 
your ways already, knows them all, 
like you know his, angling down the hall 
at bedtime like a sage parent who grasps
better than you do when to sleep, and how long, 
alert to your constant visions and re-visions, 
padding patiently beside you while you drift 
from room to room, this balm in stressful times,
this quiet presence, bond-brother, leaning in 

Louise Wakeling’s fourth poetry collection, Off limits, was published in July, 2021 (Puncher & Wattmann).  Her recent poetry has appeared in Contemporary Australian Poetry (2017), Live Encounters (2018), Mountain Secrets (2019), Wild Voices (2019), Burrow 2020), and Messages from the Embers (2020). She is currently working on a novel exploring power dynamics within the family and in Australian society in the 1950s-70s. 

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