The Shelter of Love

What about street dogs,/ the soft undersides of paws/ laid at night/ upon face or arm/ warding off cold & harm./ Dogs with hungry sorrowful/ eyes will gaze into our own./ If we have zero food/ to offer, not even a bone,/ a dog still claims us,/ downtrodden as we are,/ as his home.

Dogs give love and companionship to many unsheltered people. Their loyal friendship makes life more bearable for countless people on the streets. Robert L. Terrell photo


Shelter of Love

by Joan Clair

She and her two small dogs live on the street.
They seek shelter together; they are family.
If she moves away from them
to go into a building
where dogs, punished for being dogs,
are not allowed,
they strain from the leash, tied up outside,
and point in her direction
like they’re fixing on the North Star
to guide them to escape like former slaves.
They feel no relief until she is retrieved.
Where is the Canada
where families of humans and other species
owning nothing but each other
can live in peace?
“Two dogs are too many.
We will allow one small dog,”
say the rules and rulers of buildings.
She and her two dogs live on the street
with no shelter beyond
the shelter of love that binds them together
and does so forever.


Interrogation File, Dog Heaven

by Daniel Marlin

1. Transcript

Where were you at 2 a.m.
on July 21, 2012?

In People’s Park, Berkeley,
half-awake on the grass.
My chin rested on these front paws.
The fog lay down at my side.

Were you alone?

No. Nearby, in deep sleep,
was the one who fed me—
his own meat, sometimes.

Did the one who fed you have a home?

We had no door
with lock and key.
No room with walls and wooden sky.

Why did you rise, with a
growl in your throat,
when the stranger approached?

I did what a dog is born to do.

Which is? 

Others have tried to harm
the one who fed me,
while he slept.
Once, two tall boys
came with a baseball bat.
They didn’t notice me
until I lunged,
and smelled their terror
as they ran.

On July 21 at 2 a.m., a stranger

Yes, he wore a skin of static;
voices came out of a
thing on his shoulder.
His own voice was rough.

Also, he had moonlight
in his hand, a long tube,
which blinded me.
He shined it
on the face of my sleeping one,
but did not wake him.

What did the stranger say?

I don’t know his words;
his sound was hard.
He meant us harm.


I rose, growling, and bared my teeth
at him.
His fear became a vapor in the air.

What else do you remember?

A great force threw me down.
Then, nothing.

2. Judgment:

On July 21, at 2 a.m. in People’s Park
a University police officer
shot this sister down,
for doing what she was born to do.

She is received,
with grace.


Mary’s Crucified

by Joan Clair

Mary’s crucified in the starving mother dog,
agony in her face as she races around a mound
at an intersection surrounded by cars.
Mary’s crucified in her starving body
with its beaten bones sticking out
except where unborn babies bulge
and her nipples drag along the ground.
Mary’s crucified in each act of cruelty
which led to her homelessness.

The togetherness of a homeless man and his dog companion makes their vigil on a San Francisco street less lonely. Robert L. Terrell photo


A Holy Block

by Joan Clair

I live on a holy block
with hundreds of worshippers
in the form of flowers
in irregular pews —
a wild, intangible group
with plenty of room
in the glory
of their morning monasteries.
My dog pauses in praise
in the morning light,
and so do I.


Two Street Souls

by Claire J. Baker

I will my soul
whose grief
down the street
up to the clouds
at the death
of a good dog
whose canine soul
more than human
was amazing.


How Old Is She?

by Joan Clair

“Hi, old dog!” the woman shrieks,
“How old is she? How old is she?”
I reply, “As old as you, as old as me,
as we are seen as two old hags
by those in chains of their mortality.
They would never say, ‘Hello, old hag!’
But we know that’s what they think.
Therefore, first see the joy she feels
in seeing you,
then her outgoing spirit sharing love,
her uncontaminated trust.
And only then see her as an old dog,
if you must;
and let that also be the same for us.”


Somebody Cares!

(after Sue Ellen Pector)

by Claire J. Baker

what about street dogs,
the soft undersides of jaws
& paws laid at night
upon face or arm
warding off cold & harm.

Dogs with hungry sorrowful
eyes will gaze into our own.
If we have zero food
to offer, not even a bone,
a dog still claims us,
downtrodden as we are,
as his home.


Considering Tears

by Claire J. Baker

How beautiful are those which
well up the slow steep way
from one’s toes.
May these outpourings flow
as long & heavy as they must
when & wherever they come

over a gravestone
or over a letter
shed on a pet’s paw or
a loved one’s shoulder.

When misty eyes sting,
when streamings reach lips
we taste & savor, find
the moisture, though salty,
sweet indeed…

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