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A Hollyhock… + The Fifteen-Year-Old Dog…

A Hollyhock That Once Belonged to Stanley Kunitz

Later that week      I found it in my right side

pocket. It had begun    to bloom, blue.      Tissuey soft.

To the bottle      of carbolic acid     went your father.

To brain plaque,        the weed      of forgetfulness,

went your mother.        Still you felt      a fondness

for the natural thing,      you loved      even the mulch,

and the flower          of the mallow family, hollyhock.

Come in, you said.    From one specimen     of the garden

you cut me     a sprig,        which I pocketed. Banished

from light,     from you, from      its princedom, a small

Gautama.         Then I forgot      it was there, down

there in the dark, doing          its precise work anyway.


The Fifteen-Year-Old Dog That Surrenders Is

The tongue hangs fat to lick the air,

gray and dry as a gag. Your whole life

you panted after whojustcameherenow,


a bone over there you could smell before

you could see, the wide patch of yard

and a figure of a hart darting in a feral


blur through trees. The joy when some

hand behind you lets go and sends you

running down the open snowy road,


and you are yourself again or for the first

time. Though now what use is there

to tense the metal leash. Now to learn


to work the new trick: one who waits.

It was long ago you learned to stand

off. You learned to stand for nothing.


That was the beginning of your training.

That was when the sky was your whole head.

Now to go on. And to go on. To become


the sick mule, the tagged skin, gnawed bone.

To learn the first art with more willingness,

and then to sit, lie down.




David Keplinger

David Keplinger's fifth collection, Another City (Milkweed Editions, 2018), was awarded the 2019 UNT Rilke Prize. In 2020 he was selected as the winner of the Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Society of America. The Long Answer: New and Selected Poems was published in 2020.