ELIZABETH, thou’st called me Devil and I leapt for joy;
wraggled my belly upward, dug my face
plough-deep in dirt as gage of diligence.
O all the starving world rejoiced with me
that day, at May the thing, Familiar
be purchased? Not for coin nor other gain
but solely, Liza, by the going-out
of thine affection toward me in the ditch;
great mucky splay-foot Dog, night-cur, a blot
with open pits for eyes. Dogs love
where they are beloved. It is our doom
thus to be moved, whether we would or no;
and, loving, we must show thee sports and tricks
that overtop what other creatures know.
Yet so I have offended, and harm wreaked
by me for care of thee hath done thee wrong.
No slight malignant thought, Elizabeth,
could dwell with thee a minute ‘fore I knew
(so close and apt did my soul hang on thine)
and then what thou hadst frowned on I would seek
to havoc. Mistress, didst thou but imagine
quarrelsome Edmonton laid wild and waste,
the raven in its streets and loosestrife blowing?
A wolf was with them then and every hour
save when thou gentled me, their cries rose up.
But always to thee I was sweet and soft,
would bring thee flesh and fowl, a speckled egg
or honeycomb, held in my careful jaw.
And doted on thee sleeping, dear Eliza;
lay down at night by thy poor slender door
that never had, before my time, held firm
but now took courage from my company
and made thy home thy fortress. Didst thou dream
soundlier then, lady? And did we meet
in fields for us untroubled, where thy need
could find slow answer in a common plenty
while thy great nocent dog played innocently?
I howl it so. I hunt it. They have kept
me from thee at thy death, Elizabeth.
My shoulder at their palings, my long teeth
broken upon their pikes. I love thee only.
A better world of this would breed relief.
Catherine Rockwood reads and edits for Reckoning Magazine, and reviews books for Strange Horizons. At one time they were an academic specializing in early-modern drama. Her poetry chapbook, Endeavors to Obtain Perpetual Motion, is available from The Ethel Zine Press. Another mini-chapbook, And We Are Far From Shore: Poems for Our Flag Means Death, is forthcoming from Ethel in 2023.