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In memory of Gracie Allen, the Passager Poodle, with poems by Ann Kolakowski, Peter Nash, Gene Grabiner and Gary McClain Gannaway.
6 minutes


This episode, about pets, is in memory of our dog Gracie whom we had to put to sleep last month.

Ann Kolakowski said that her poem “Guru” was inspired by and is dedicated to the memory of her West Highland white terrier Austin.

You greet me at the door each night with jumps
and pirouettes; such happiness ignores
the leash. Your tail, in playful Morse Code thumps
the gospel of agape love. (I’m sure
that’s what you mean.) Had I a tail to shake
as well, I would in kind return your praise.
Instead, each dawn I bow to you and take
the yoga pose that bears your name – first, raise
my rump, extend my knees and elbows straight;
then clear my mind of every earthly woe.
(This rush of blood – a path to Heaven’s gate?)
Inhale; perspective shifts. It’s true, you know,
that dog reversed invokes a higher form.
So bless me, humble master. Keep me warm.

“Guru,” Ann Kolakowski from Passager’s 2013 Poetry Contest issue.

Peter Nash said that his son Rocky has a small two-room apartment: he eats, sleeps, studies, meditates and does yoga in one room, and his rabbits live in a playpen in the other room. Here’s Peter’s poem “Rocky’s Place.” It begins with this epigraph from Rumi: “There is some kiss we want with our whole lives, the touch of spirit on the body.”

Sometimes I think of his thousand Post-its
plastering the lamp shade, creeping
along the base boards, up the metal legs
of the card table and covering the window
overlooking a graveled parking lot.
In the corner, boxes of Zip-lock bags
filled with alfalfa pellets. A bare bulb
dangles by its wire over two rabbits,
Flopsy and Mopsy inside a baby’s playpen.

Each day begins seven inches above the sink
when he whispers the first Post-it:
Every seeker is a beggar,
before moving on to the next
and the next in their ordained order
as if they were a trail of stone steps winding
seven times around sacred Mecca.
And when he arrives at those who have reached
their arms into emptiness, I imagine
him ascending the path to the doorknob of the closet
where the last Post-it reads: This is the place
the soul is most afraid of, on this height,
this ecstatic turret, and climbing
into the playpen he lies down with the rabbits
who nuzzle his face, their eyes half-closed,
their furry, smoky-white heads
moving back and forth
in mysterious jerks.

Peter Nash’s poem “Rocky’s Place” from Passager’s 2015 Poetry Contest Issue.

Next, from the 2013 Poetry Contest Issue, Gene Grabiner’s poem “Conversation With Seamus.”

Sitting with Seamus, long-haired orange
cat I found under the cabin.
He’s got some fused vertebrae, maybe from
being hit on the road as a farm kitten.
Like me, he wheezes.
His voice has diminished
from being abandoned in forest-winters,
scrounging in the deep freeze.
We discuss leaving this life. We concur.
That is, I assume his not paying any attention
is concurrence. We both stand
in the same gold field of getting out
of the here & now, or hanging around.

“Conversation with Seamus,” Gene Grabiner. Gene said he lives with his wife, three cats, one turtle, and a parrot. He said, “My cat, Seamus, has inspired a few poems. Perhaps he is my avatar, or vice versa; but cats reveal nothing.”

Gary McClain Gannaway said that his poem “Morning Ritual” arose from his interest in Zen Buddhism and the experience of satori. He said he continues to search for what William Blake saw in “Auguries of Innocence” – “a World in a Grain of Sand.”

For several weeks after the dog died,
He continued the morning ritual,
Emptying and filling the oversized silver water bowl.

He filled it at the kitchen sink
Where his father would have stood
Had his father not been dead
Much longer than the dog.

But before the filling came the emptying.
With the gracefulness of a discus throw,
He would send the water out into the early morning air
And watch the drops hold there in one pure, perfect moment.
Then all the water would fall to earth,

And he never knew that that moment was perfect, too.

“Morning Ritual,” Gary McClain Gannaway, from Passager’s Winter ’22 Issue.

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For Kendra, Mary, Christine, Rosanne and the rest of the Passager staff, I’m Jon Shorr.