A Thorn in the Paw

Once I was a young dog with a big thorn
in its paw, slowly becoming that very thorn,
not the howl but the thing
howled at, importunate, printing in blood.

Others grew up with chrism, incense, law,
but I was exiled from the start to stare
at lightning hurled from the sky
into a lake that revealed only itself.

Others had pews and prayer-shawls, old fathers
telling them when to kneel and what to say.
I had only my eyes
my tongue my nose my skin and feeble ears.

Dove of descent, fat worm of contention,
bogeyman, Author—I can’t get rid of you
merely by hating the world
when people behave at their too-human worst.

Birds high up in their summer baldachin
obey the messages of wind and leaves.
Their airy hosannas
can build a whole day out of worming and song.

I’ve worked at the thorn, I’ve stood by the shore
of the marvelous, drop-jawed and jabbering.
Nobody gave me a god
so I perfect my idolatry of doubt.

c. 2004 by David Mason first published in Poetry January 2004.