Old Tip

by Aidan Andrew Dun

Here’s an old sheepdog friend of mine who goes by the name of Tip. Beloved master departed, he’s half-blind remaining behind. The one thing of significance and certainty in Tip’s world is a bit of stick. If you don’t remember that you get the stick: you’ll be hounded. This is a very wonderful tyrant-canine, one-pointed to the extent that his friends speculate that he is having a kind of religious experience via constant focus on nothing but the retrieval of sticks. Please meet Tip…


His life has been a single day
fixated on the fetish of desire,
his seeking through obscure tracts
for that straight line which is the truth:
the hunting and tracking-down of sticks.
Nothing else in a dull world distracts;
compulsive are his meditations,
emblematic, his sniffing-about for clues,
his nosings in the long grass of facts.
A black tail like a compass-needle,
white-tipped to be visible, utile,
hardly shifts or quivers to wag
unlike appendages of lesser tykes.
No common-garden warmth here,
too-far-gone in grand questing instinct
to flirt or fool with mere ordinary
conventions: sentiment and closeness.
‘Ah, you’ve found nothing yet!’

Monomaniac canine, you say,
mocking the obsessive focus,
kicking some chewed icon aside,
picking it up, viscous with excited
droolings of the perseverant beast,
hurling once more its whirling cross
glittering with saliva – one last time
galvanizing those arthritic back-legs:
Tip, unlocking stiff, time-skewed black
hindquarters to skitter down the hill.

But you would love such impetus.
Blue-eyed with clouding of the lens
still he races, half-blind, impaired,
listening for a light drop on the green,
the dream splashdown on silver dew.
Still, one-pointed is his only way,
with his feeling for magnetic north,
this sense of where the sky has fallen:
sublime knowledge of concealed
wonders yet to be retrieved.
Tippy, near the rim of the world,
near that problematic horizon,
your opaque gaze seems prophetic
almost in the way old people speak
clairvoyantly sometimes in senile twilight.

Spirit of magnificent endurance,
though you only win some bit of twig
taken for the big piece of the woodpile
and try to pass it off as the real thing;
though now you doze through indoor life,
foetal shape in the contemptible basket,
remembering when each find was easy gold;
good old Tip, though you do collide
with kitchen-chairs, stupid human legs
(only two of those, bah, insufficient!)
seeking – tap, tap – a blind man’s stick,
bumping down some false trail
though the furniture’s confusion
where was only quick-pointing once,
the keen run to a foregone conclusion:
still behind those milky cataracts
on secret meadows and sky-lawns,
Canis Major, you hold a flaming torch
in your jaws: a phoenix-bird of fire.
And one turquoise dawn you’ll race
across blue with an ascending sun
toward the one who calls you in,
faithful, loyal to his last command.