Donna Dunlop

For Watson

(listen to the poem, read by Diane R. Wiener)

Seven Fridays since you’ve been gone
and a heart painted twice
to mark your sacred site
under the canopy.

The backyard
newly sodded
but your place protected
from the workers’ carelessness.

Now I miss your
well-worn pathways.

I used to have grass,
Well, more grass anyway
and I brought you over
when you lived next door
to roll in the luxury of it.

“Isn’t it nice?” I asked
Even then, it was your domain
little sprite of a thousand charms.

I had wanted
to replenish it for you
after it had been
worn and run away
but could never deprive you
of your backyard paradise
for the time it would take.

Will you be able
to find your way back
when and if you do return
now that your familiar paths
are missing?

At least the earth
under the cedars beside the shed
there at the back
where you waited for squirrels
on the wires overhead does remain.

And everything here calls your name.

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Four Months Gone

(listen to the poem, read by Diane R. Wiener)

(For Watson)

I have the ghost mark
of a red heart, now
four months old
on the top of my wrist
that formed that shape
or so it seemed
on the day you died
in the backyard. Something
(I don’t know what) had bitten me
and I had scratched the spot
to a bleed.

On this anniversary
there is a pink echo in place
and I can understand
the need to tattoo,
the ritual of pinning
coloured inks
under the skin.

But I’d prefer
the purity of blood
even though that may not be
what’s called for.
Or else it is. Never
wanting you to fade
I would perpetuate
this small stigmata, this sting
and look to it for
connection and comfort
as though it were a watch
telling me the real time.

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Never the Same

(listen to the poem, read by Diane R. Wiener)

(For Watson)

Night will never be the same
without your rhythmic breath
moving so reliably beside me
moving into my breath
and keeping me alive
giving my soul room to move
between we two solitary beings
in an otherwise lonely room.

I died as I held your death
in my arms, your lost breath
with your small firm body
still warm in my embrace.

I died and now I die again.

There is no end to my dying
until I feel you move once more
within my body, a felt presence
distinct throughout my own –
you are telling me something important
something about what follows emptiness.
It is not completion. No.
It is a soul’s breath.

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Raking Leaves

(listen to the poem, read by Diane R. Wiener)

(For Watson)

You should be here
insistently dropping the ball
at my feet, pushing it forward
if I don’t pick it up fast enough
as I rake the fallen leaves
and any sticks from the tree above
that could harm you –

You should be interrupting, protesting
the progress I make today
in our lonely backyard.

I delayed this task without
an awareness of what stalled me,
but more than my back, it was this ache.

Everywhere and invisible,
darting every which way
running circles around the shed,
not dead but alert
to the movements of squirrels
who now make themselves
at home here. They must
wonder where their dedicated pursuer went.

You always competed
with any activity I undertook,
and birds, once spotted, were chased
away from your shrubs.

Today I was out of breath
from too much efficiency.
Back in the house I sobbed
my usual lament
for the love of you,
and recalled the contentment
we had felt after your joyful games
of catch as catch can
as I attempted to rake.

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What Would Help

(listen to the poem, read by Diane R. Wiener)

(For Watson)

It still seems
like you left too soon –
you were only thirteen
and other Jack Russells
have lived longer. Life
went wrong again I’d say.

Someone asked if I could
still feel you here.
Well, I feel you inside me
like an incarnation and
I’m still not happy. My face hangs
from my face as if I’ll never be able
to sincerely smile again
or feel connected to anything
in the way we were/are connected.

Others casually ask
“Are you going to get another dog?”
as if your unique being
could be so easily replaced. As though
we hadn’t spent a lifetime
learning the ins and outs
of each other’s ways.

It doesn’t help. It’s blank conversation
with an unwelcome twist. Never mind
the theory of good intentions
poorly expressed.

In fact, the only thing
that could help would be
for you to round the corner
and walk into this room
right now, this very second
and settle into your bed
as though you’d never been away.

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About the Author

Donna Dunlop is a well published poet. Her last book (Contact Press Toronto, December 2019) was DEAR RAY: A Love Poem for Raymond Souster. It received positive “blurb” comments from Fraser Sutherland (now late), Dennis Lee, and John Robert Colombo. It also received a starred Kirkus Review and was named by Kirkus as one of the best books of 2020. She is also a novelist and a singer-songwriter in the balladeer tradition. Her last album, entitled Backlight, was released in June 2020. A very recent in-depth career spanning interview (with music and conversation) was done by Jan Hall, host of the syndicated radio program “Folk Roots Radio.” The conversation touched on poetry. It can be heard on the “Folk Roots Radio” website. Donna’s website,, acts as a writing and musical archive for her work.