Joan Colby

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The Dog in Service

When you come home from hospital
To a hospital bed and hospice,
Our dog discovers her true
Vocation. She guards you
From visitors. Shepherds them
To the door. Sits at the foot
Of the bed keeping watch.
Should you try to get up,
Restless and confused, she
Barks for me. Nudges you back
To safety. Who knew
She had this talent, all the years
Of threatening the FedEx truck
Or the squirrels on the driveway.
She’s found purpose, not so much
A guardian angel as a warden.
Stay, she barks at you. She
Who has learned to obey
A repertoire of commands.
She licks your hand.
Good boy. Don’t try
To stand all by yourself.
She shoulders me to your side.
Sits, serious as a general.


Yoked as yearlings, they learned the pattern
Of near- ox, off- ox, how to haul
The wagon. When one dies the other loses
Value. Half of a team is no team.

I felt like the off-ox
When you died. Yoked for 60 years,
At first we fought
For our own patterns.
Untrained, we resisted
The compromise that makes a team.

In Chinese astrology,
We were both tigers.
Faced off fang to fang,
Body to body.
Years interpreted us.
Each of us less, each more.
What a conundrum. Our flesh
Conjoined. We made new
Generations. Imagine that!

It’s what humanity does,
Mammals and fish,
Invertebrates. All of us
Magic. You and I stayed
Within the shafts
And learned the sanctity of pulling
Together in the same direction.

Now I’m lost
Hauling my sorrow
Not knowing where to go or how.


Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, Gargoyle, Pinyon, Little Patuxent Review, Spillway, Midwestern Gothic and others. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She has published 20 books including Selected Poems from FutureCycle Press which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize and Ribcage from Glass Lyre Press which has been awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Three of her poems have been featured on Verse Dailyand another is among the winners of the 2016 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. Her newest book is Her Heartsongs from Presa Press. Colby is a senior editor of FutureCycle Press and an associate editor of Good Works Review. Website:  Facebook: Joan Colby. Twitter: poetjm.