Archives for posts with tag: pets

by Rhonda Schmidt

At eight years old, I knew bugs and dirt.
I knew bare feet, weeping willows, and sunshine.
My home was the yard behind my house,
the yard where I sat with my brother, my dog, my turtle.
Days passed slowly there, cicadas hummed loudly,
calling attention to the quiet house in front.

Our dog, old and almost blind, was our comfort.
We told him everything, and with one ear cocked sideways,
he listened as we buried our face in his soft fur.

We shared our yard with doodle bugs.
Plump little larvae,
they built homes of sand, perfect little pits,
scattered under the dead oak tree.

There they stayed until they grew and took flight,
we watched them work,
as they flicked sand into the air, moving backwards,
master builders.

Then we gathered little sticks and stirred the sand lightly,
thrilled as we watched them rise to the top of the dirt,
and smiled as they scurried to hide,
sometimes catching one,
feeling the little feet tickle our fingers.

Maybe we set our destiny in motion,
for we would leave our backyard that summer,
our tears and pleading ignored,
our sticks and turtle left behind, the cicada’s silent now.

And so we sat in our father’s Chevy,
his cigarette smoke stung our eyes, his gruff voice offered nothing.
Our eyes wide, our voices silenced,
we pulled deep into ourselves, and waited.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: In this photo I am eight years old, in my backyard with my beagle, Babe (Midland Texas, 1968).


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In our family, we moved often—every three to four years. This was hard for my brother and me. The memory of digging for doodle bugs is a good one. And even though not everyone has seen doodle bugs, they are interesting little guys.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rhonda Schmidt started writing in her fifties, after working as a Registered Nurse for 30 years. She is a graduate student at Southern Methodist University in the Masters of Liberal Studies program. She is a native Texan, living in Dallas, and  yearns to move to any place where summer does not resemble hell.

by James Penha

                    “Where would we be without books?”
                    –KCRW’s Bookworm theme song

Needing to read “One Art,” I grabbed from my bookshelf
this Jakarta morning the Bishop Poems but they wouldn’t give.
I tugged; they resisted; I rocked them, and only slowly
did they swing forward a tad, in concert with Berryman,
suprisingly, and with Bukowski and, with less insistent rhythms,
Aiken. Finally, the clutch of poets broke from their hinges
and the mulch of thousands of white worm-like larvae set
loose blindly seeking shelter. Manic now, I ripped forward
all the poets and they came apart in pieces, like little cardboard
honeycombs. The Homers had always rested horizontally for reasons
I didn’t recall, and when I touched the cover of the topmost,
Lattimore’s Iliad, my fingers went through Troy as easily as Hector slew
Patroclus. Homer, all of them, disintegrated pyreless, into ashes.
Four shelves of books I had carried over continents, over
decades, digested. The shelves as well: these creatures
must be termites, I reasoned, and as I Raided their cradles, can after
can after can beyond the limits of rational killing,
shards of imagery and metaphor ricocheted in the fog of this war.

And later in the day, the lung of my ancient cocker spaniel,
wheezing for weeks, riddled with boils and tumor, quietly
collapsed, his epic life ending in ellipses.

I am left to pet your old photographs and recite Bishop by kindlelight.

SOURCE: Originally appeared in THEMA 27.2 (2015): 73-74.

PHOTO: The author’s beloved cocker spaniel, Tony.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem’s narrative is true. Oh, how I wish it were not. I collected and shipped these books, vital, I thought, for my teaching, my writing, and my soul, from Queens, NY to Detroit to Hong Kong to Dutchess County to Staten Island to four different houses in Indonesia including the one where I lost them all and wrote this poem. The dog, whom I loved too, at least lived his whole life in Indonesia.


A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past quarter-century in Indonesia. He has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and in poetry. Snakes and Angels, a collection of his adaptations of classic Indonesian folk tales, won the 2009 Cervena Barva Press fiction chapbook contest; No Bones to Carry, a volume of his poetry, earned the 2007 New Sins Press Editors’ Choice Award. He edits TheNewVerse.News, an online journal of current-events poetry. Visit him on Twitter @JamesPenha.

AUTHOR PHOTO: The poet . . . in happier times . . . with a book.

Across the Country, Little Ford, Big Dog
by Abby Chew

I started on a Quaker farm in Ohio, where I raised goats and taught my students to waltz and read sonnets and grow food.
I drove my red truck and my white dog to Maine.
Then back through Ohio, toward Indiana and Iowa—we liked names bookended by vowels.
I’d said goodbye to all the friends I’d ever had.
At Council Bluffs, we considered all we could see. All that lay out there across the plains.
We drove through Colorado the day of the Aurora shooting. We watched the sun bleed itself into the mountains.
I laughed out loud driving through canyons. I’d never been inside a canyon before.
We drove through rain. The little truck did just fine, weighted down and low, barreling on.
We are peanut butter sandwiches in a parking lot at Arches and bemoaned the National Park rules about dogs. We wished we had everything in the world all to ourselves.
We stayed one night in a fancy Las Vegas hotel. Every other dog was snack-food-sized. We’ve never been back.
We got to California and made a new home.
We met a man.
We got a second, smaller dog.
We still have the truck.
We still look East every day.

PHOTO: The author and Alice the dog at the Brite Spot in Echo Park, Los Angeles, blocks from where they live with the new man and the new dog.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In this little poem, I wanted only the facts that brought Alice the Dog and me out here to the coast where we now live. A list. Because that trip was so terrible and wonderful. It could only be a list.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Abby Chew earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Currently, she teaches at Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences in Santa Monica, California.

Moving with a Siamese Cat
by Brenda Davis Harsham

There is no agony more sublime
than moving with a Siamese cat,
yowling, howling in his box
for hours on end
until any end seems
more appealing
than continuing.
He refuses food,
refuses water,
and stares at me with
enormous freaked-out eyes,
ears back in his I’ll-Get-You look
with fangs bared.
When I release him in a motel,
my nerves are shot, I put out
food and water before I
eat myself, but it’s no good.
All night.
Without stop.
Sniffing every corner,
stalking every shadow,
walking along mirror tops,
falling into the tub,
all while giving
an unearthly howl
of betrayal, rage, bewilderment
spiced with promises
of revenge.
If a cat could file for divorce,
moving two days
from home in a U-Haul
would be under
mental cruelty
and irreconcilable differences
Why did no one mention
before I told this story?

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo was taken in 1994, long after my cat had forgiven me for torturing him.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem required time travel to 1991, way back to a few of the darkest days of my 18-year love affair with a Siamese cat I miss dearly.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brenda Davis Harsham lives in New England. She’s been a McDonald’s cashier, graphic artist, editor, lawyer and writing teacher. When she isn’t writing, she snaps photographs, makes art, invents recipes and reads to her kids. Her poetry and prose has been published in on-line literary venues, including Silver Birch Press. A poem is forthcoming in the Best of Today’s Little Ditty Anthology.

by Mila Podlewski

I’m not allowed a pet.

My mom doesn’t allow it.
The landlord doesn’t allow it.
My younger brother the scaredy cat doesn’t allow it.

So I took a rock from our front yard.
Or a stone…

     I’m not sure the difference between a rock and a stone. The one I      found was smooth and shiny and dark grey. That seems more like a      stone than a rock to me. “Stone” sounds fancier and pretty. Rocks      are the things that are rough and you trip over or scrape your knees      on.


I took the stone and painted a green stripe down the middle.
I filled in the back end with more green.
On the front I painted two small circles with one smaller circle in the middle of each.
Like a turtle, you see.
(For those whose imaginations don’t work so great.)

I sit it on my desk when I do homework and on the floor beside me when I play.
It can’t move on its own but I’ve seen plenty of turtles that never move.
That’s what they do: sit there and stare.
Honestly, I would have liked a dog.
I’m just not a good enough artist.

But, it’s okay.
Turtles are excellent pets.
They’re very easy.

PHOTOGRAPH: Venice Beach, California, 1994, age two.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: If I had written a poem at the time of my struggles with a petless life, I believe this would have been it.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mila Podlewski is a recent college graduate living in Los Angeles, California. She has previously been published in Scum Mag, blogs at, and is slowly growing comfortable in calling herself a writer.

Cathy on bike
All day by the mirror—
by Cathy McArthur

my parakeet looks at himself
his tail waving
two small feathers on his wing.

I draw us while he sings,
a white and yellow hat
on my head.

this simple happiness.

His beak is a fine comb
teasing, dressing me up
for dancing,

I laugh at my tangled hair,
by the table in the sunny kitchen,
holding crayons, paper.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at age 11 in Woodside, New York.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The above poem is part of an early childhood memory. As a child, my home was always filled with family pets, and they seemed to be a part of my creative life. I couldn’t locate an old photo of my parakeet, Melody, with me in that kitchen.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cathy McArthur’s (aka Cathy Palermo’s) work recently appeared in Barrow Street and is forthcoming in Blueline. She has also published in the Bellevue Literary Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Hanging Loose, Blue Fifth Review, Gargoyle, Lumina, Jacket, WSQ, and others. She teaches creative writing and composition at The City College of New York.

love the child
by Lindi-Ann Hewitt-Coleman

my eyes were so big
they swallowed the world
in all its dew spangled beauty
and bone shattered pain

my eyes were so big
they swallowed the ocean
and the mermaid and the starfish
and the deep breath whale
swam inside me

my eyes were so big
i did not have a face
or a body or
wild witch hair
where my cat
black as night
hid velvet paws
around my neck.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: I grew up on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa. I befriended this feral cat who lived on the vacant farmland next door. Much to my delight, she returned the friendship by jumping through my window one night and birthing four kittens on my bed. This picture was taken in 1973.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lindi-Ann Hewitt-Coleman lives on a very small farm on the edge of a very large forest in Wilderness, South Africa. Besides being a mother and writer, she raises Angora goats and spins wool. She has published two collections of poetry blue sky and other poems (2011) and holy ground (2014).

Be Thankful for What You Got,”
William DeVaughn (1974)

by liz gonzález

In my North Town neighborhood,
pit bulls and German shepherds,
trained to kill, jump spiked fences
and crunch Chihuahuas like taquitos.
I carry a big stick when walking Chacho,
my cream and caramel Jack Chi.
We circle a two-block radius,
stuck on flat concrete and asphalt,
stuck seeing the same houses and streets.
Whenever we can, Chacho and I
hop in my ‘95 Toyota Tercel,
and make a quick escape.

We park at the Signal Hill
Home Depot lot,
hike up Skyline Drive,
up the gated community’s
winding paved paths,
past the squeak of bobbing oil pumps.
I’m breathless; Chacho’s ready to run.
We speed walk around Hilltop
Park’s rim and Panorama Drive.
Air swept by Santa Ana winds
reveals Los Angeles high rises
and San Bernardino mountains.
The cobalt blue Walter
Pyramid rises from treetops.
Huntington Beach’s jagged
shore shimmers and froths.
Off the coast of Long Beach,
yachts and freight ships
sail by artificial THUMS Islands.
Behind the Queen Mary,
gantry cranes stand erect,
like metal dinosaurs
ready to do some heavy lifting.

Chacho leads the way on White
Point’s foot-carved trails.
Concrete frames brush, ocean,
and sky in Battery Bunkers’
empty gun encasement.
Salt and sage scent the breeze.
Fennel, that interloper,
waves tiny yellow buds.
A cactus wren feasts
on swollen prickly pear fruit.
Chacho pulls the leash taut
while I stand in awe of the view.
Catalina Island on a fog-free day.
White sunlight rides the ripples.
A lone speedboat
rips the serene surface.

A supermoon illuminates
the Seal Beach boardwalk.
Dusk dabs stuttering clouds
purple-pink. The sinking sun
spills amber honey into lampposts
lining the wooden pier.
Chacho can’t read “No Dogs.”
He runs unleashed, kicking up sand
smooth as a whisper.

After a two or more mile jaunt,
my t-shirt sweat-drenched,
we lounge on Beachwood BBQ’s
dog-friendly patio
in downtown Long Beach.
Chacho nibbles on corn bread.
I sip a pint of craft lager,
eat a small salmon salad—
my version of suds and grub,

and give grace.

PHOTOGRAPH: “Chacho at White Point Royal Palms Beach” (San Pedro, California) by liz gonzález.

liz gonzalez zwark

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: liz gonzález is a fourth generation Southern Californian. Her poetry, fiction, and memoirs have appeared in numerous literary journals, periodicals, and anthologies. She has poems forthcoming in Wide Awake: The Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond and is the author of the limited edition poetry collection Beneath Bone. liz’s awards include an Irvine Fellowship at the Lucas Artists Residency Program and a Macondo Foundation Casa Azul Writer’s Residency. She works as writing consultant and teaches creative writing through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Visit her at

by Kathryn Almy

I didn’t kill it myself, but I seem to float
towards decay.
           Instinct says stop,
drop and roll whenever any corpse washes up,

sand in my fur, this smell
changing me in a chemical way
not even my ancestors understood.

Fluff and bones are trophies, like snow-
flakes, socks, bumblebees: treasures I bury.

I open my mouth to shout in triumph, but
out comes only a hoarse croak
and puff of sticky, tickling down

          —the blades and barbs are black, mashed,
          the little white eyes hardly show,
          the iridescence dimmed.

It feels like being beaten for crimes I cannot see.

There is a knot within me: feathers, bugs, scum, and bark

          —everything I have eaten,

this eternal world beyond the reach of words.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am fortunate to live in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a town of many fine writers. Just one of these is Diane Seuss, for whose class I wrote this poem.

Almy - selfie with dog

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathryn Almy‘s poetry and creative nonfiction have been published in print and on-line publications, including the Great Lakes Review narrative map, City of the Big Shoulders: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry, Shady Side Review, and The Smoking Poet. Visit her at

by Catfish McDaris

There I was in the elevator
with my 8 year old Shih Tzu,
named May, she weighed 13 lbs
& was very well behaved

A boy about 4 years old got
on & charged at my dog, I
told him please don’t do that

He ignored me & bent down
& bit my dog’s ear, she yelped
in pain, I spoke firmly to the
child telling him it was naughty
to hurt the doggie, his mother
just stood there & kept quiet

The 6 people in the elevator
yelled at me, “Leave the kid
alone, he was just having fun
with the mutt”

My dog gave them all the evil
eye & did something they won’t
forget until, May Day.

PHOTO: “Shih Tzu dog” by Geri Lavrov. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Catfish McDaris has been published widely in publications that include The Louisiana Review, George Mason Univ. Press, and New Coin from Rhodes University in South Africa. He’s recently been translated into French, Polish, Swedish, Arabic, Bengali, Tagalog, and Esperanto. His 25 years of published material is in the Special Archives Collection at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.