The Poet's Perspective: Two poems observe rescued animals

November 15, 2010

Robin Becker, the 2010-11 Penn State laureate and professor of English and women's studies at the University, is sharing several of her poems via video during the 2010-11 academic year, aiming to engage people "in the deep pleasures of poetry -- language crafted and shaped from words, the 'ordinary' material we all use every day," to explore how and why poems move us.

"The Poet's Perspective" is a weekly poetry video series scheduled to appear during the fall 2010 and spring 2011 semesters on Penn State Live and in Penn State Newswires. Prior to each poem, Becker offers her thoughts about what inspired her to write the piece, then poses a question to consider. Below and in the video link of two poems read together, "Rescue Parable" and "Rescue Riddle," Becker offers a glimpse into the lives of two rescued pets.

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Rescue Parable and Rescue Riddle: A Pair of Poems

Dogs figure importantly in my work. Living alongside us, beautiful, beloved and comforting companions, they work with and for us. Yet, our relations also contain the mysteries of silence, the unknown and our command over them. In one of these poems, the speaker interprets the simple act of burying a bone through an anthropomorphic lens. In the second, she meditates on the notion of "rescue."

Question to consider: What qualities in yourself become most vivid to you in your interactions with animals?

Rescue Parable

Though saved from starvation and given
his own name, bowl, bed;
though he wears the tags
of ownership and veterinary care;
though he sleeps in the sun with his cat
who grooms him in the autumn afternoon;
he carries every bone to the back of the yard,
digs with his forepaws a grave,
and with his nose, dutiful as one enslaved,
covers with dirt the coming poverty.

"Rescue Parable" originally appeared in Prairie Schooner, Summer 2009.

Rescue Riddle

When she takes her morning tea, he settles
beside her -­ body of law and praise,
procuress, his winter and summer hearth.

Each day, for work, she turns her back
on his slim muzzle, narrow rib cage,
small paws braced. She might have left

him to starve with his brothers years ago
on that beach in Mexico, one leave-taking
instead of the thousands ahead of them.

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Robin Becker will visit several Penn State Commonwealth Campuses this fall; view her schedule of appearances at online. To read or watch videos of previous poems in the series, click here. To listen to an occasional podcast series where Becker and a small group of students and faculty discuss one of her poems, visit "Liberal Arts Voices."

  • To watch a video of Robin Becker reading 'Rescue Parable' and 'Rescue Riddle,' click on the image above.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated November 22, 2010