Stray Dogs

by Sarah Howe

Thou art a beaten dog beneath the hail
– Pound, Canto LXXXI

To think again of Pound, bared to the sky at Pisa.
The traitor’s cage they built for him specially. 6 x 6 ft
of airstrip mesh & dust. Wire diamonds running
even underfoot. Day 25, the DTC doctors transfer him
to a medical tent (A swollen magpie in the fitful sun)
fearing the first signs of a breakdown. Three weeks i’
this here sun goan change a man, thinks Mr Edwards
(he with the face of the Baluba mask) as he flips over
a packing crate, hang reg’lations, to fashion the traitor
a writing table. Squat at his crate-cum-desk, Pound
spreads flat the worn-out covers of his dog-eared
Confucius: he’d slipped it in his slacks’ side pocket
that day at the house, a rifle butt pounding the door.
As he flicks through the Analects, his hand starts to
tremble. He pushes it hard into his temple. Takes up
the donated pencil stub: Pull down thy vanity. Near
illegible. Scrawling on squares of shiny latrine roll
now lodged in a library’s vaults. Later he gets hold
of a G.I. pad, ruled lines turned ninety-degrees
like bars. No longer blithely ranting on Rothschilds
as in his radiodays (Whether they are born Jews
or have taken to Jewry). Circe’s sty. Glorious cant.
Our captive flutters again to the much-thumbed page
where, having lost his disciples at the city’s east gate,
Kung takes with equanimity the stranger’s slur:
“Look at this man here, he has a face like a lost dog!”
“Yes,” smiles Kung Fu-tzu, “yes, that’s quite correct.”