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Helen Ruggieri

READING FOR THE DOGS

It was Tom’s idea, Fran’s. They’d gotten two dogs, nice ones, from the SPCA and they wanted to help. You come too, they said. I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t squirm out of it.

So this cold spring afternoon we find ourselves at the SPCA telethon to raise money for the kennels. A storm is coming; the wind grows stronger all afternoon. We have to wait for our turn. A good cause–-finding homes for homeless dogs.

Set up under a plastic tarp that rattles and flaps in the wind, the cameras groan on. There’s a karaoke singer now, yodeling off key quavers the backup doesn’t cover, love gone wrong. They’ve paid ten bucks to sing along, backed up by barking from the agitated dogs. The dander begins to collect in my throat–-dogs, pollen on the wind, what’s left of winter’s mold and dust--what more could I want?

I cough again and blow my nose. The emcee makes his pitch: "Give a homeless dog a home. Poets comin’ next!" He gives us a hopeless look . . . our hair stands on end from the wind. I honk again.

I’ve carefully selected dog poems from my repertoire. I yap them into the microphone, trying to bark against the wind, the dander caught in my throat. The cameraman makes louder sounds. The wind worsens. "We’ll keep on reading till you pledge," I promise. No one laughs. They don’t make eye contact, bad sign.

he sat, spoke
heeled, rolled over
played dead

I’m done. The storm breaks, rain pounds the pound. I’m feelin’ lower than a homeless hound. Does this come off my fifteen minutes?


Helen Ruggieri has had haibun in the World Haiku Review, Charabanc, Bottle Rockets, Spoon River Review, and essays in Cream City Review, The Heartlands, Quarter After Eight, and a new anthology from Putnam/Tarcher - How I Learned to Cook, edited by Margo Perin.

Her haiku have appeared in World Haiku Review, The Mainichi Daily News, Daily Yomiuri, Presence (England), and in Modern Haiku.

She recently won the 30th annual Hart Crane award sponsored by Icon at Kent State University for her poem, 'A Japanese Fable.'


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