Canis Major

2 posts

Ode to a Country Not in the Olympics


I’m not a big fan of nationalism, even when seen in the Olympics. I am a big fan of the country in the sky, though, particularly the night sky in the darkest-before-dawn when I’m out with the dog.

Here’s my pledge of allegiance, then, to that far away land, its president named Orion, its vice-president a bright and clever dog:


Another Country by Ken Craft

Under the frozen dome of December
mornings, the scrim of dawn
not even an orange thread
caught in the eastern branches,
I often marvel at the dog’s earthly
preoccupations when my nose,
called to greater heights, sniffs
at the cold and dry scent of the heavens.

His cold black snout, quivering
over a stale snowbank claimed
yesterday by some stray adversary,
is oblivious as the alpha dog
above us herds stars
and bounds at the heels
of his boreal master, belted
and deliberate in his stride.
In my heart I know that the crunch

of my blind boots in this darkness
carries an unearthly echo, that the stride
of the hunter heading for a hearth
deep under the western horizon
crackles over another country,
its frozen furrows black and uneven,
its broadcast ice studding the endless way.


©Ken Craft 2016, from The Indifferent World, Future Cycle Press

Why You Should Memorize a Poem


One of the profoundest things I learned in college came from an English professor who was once a prisoner of war during WWII. He said he kept his sanity thanks to memorized poetry. Each day, throughout the drudgery and misery of his captivity, he would recite poems in his mind – words he had captured himself during schooldays. These poems became his company. His friends and succor. Without that, he said, he would almost surely have gone mad.

This morning, venturing into the crisp, 30-something degree dark with the dog, I was greeted as usual by the cheerful stars. It’s in those darkest-before-dawn hours that they seem sharpest, brightest, as if they save their diamond best as a treat for early risers.

And the friendliest October constellations to greet me? Orion, of course, with Canis Major, his faithful hunting dog, at his heels. I greet both dog and hunter by reciting aloud a Robert Frost poem I memorized long ago. Owning that poem makes me feel good, and the celestial dog seems to appreciate the attention to. Here’s what I say to the dark (“Canis Major” by Robert Frost):

The great Overdog,
That heavenly beast
With a star in one eye,
Gives a leap in the east.

He dances upright
All the way to the west
And never once drops
On his forefeet to rest.

I’m a poor underdog,
But tonight I will bark
With the great Overdog
That romps through the dark.

Each cloud-free morning, when I recite the poem, I watch the words rise as white steam in the beam of my headlight. Together they rise in the sky to join Canis Major, and Orion doesn’t seem to mind a bit. (I’m Sirius!)

On days starting like today, I often think of my professor and how right he was. And you don’t have to be a prisoner of war to benefit, either. You might be a prisoner of sadness. Or circumstances. Or boredom. Memorizing a poem will take care of your blues, I promise. Try it!