by Larry Brody
NOTE FROM LB:
This poem hurts too much for me to read now because, I think, I’ve learned the lesson my friend was trying to teach me. Haven’t fully absorbed it, oh no. But I’ve lived that lesson. And live it still.
The Navajo Dog Teaches A Lesson
We were in Colorado, the Navajo dog and I.
I was showering in a hundred foot waterfall,
Body banging against the rocks,
Flesh not so much cleansed as torn,
While she lolled on the grass nearby.
“What was the best day of your life?”
Said the Navajo dog when, beaten and bruised,
I emerged. I flopped down beside her,
Exhausted, yet filled with the power of the
Running water, feeling more about energy
Than I ever could have known. “The best day of
My life was when my first child was born,” I said.
“I was Kid Hollywood then, but still broke, still
Striving. I remember when I saw her. All I could
Think of was that no one in the world was good
Enough for my girl. I remember my arms aching,
And feeling so empty until I held her. I remember driving
Home after the birth, getting on the freeway at
Santa Monica Boulevard. I remember believing it
Was the most beautiful freeway entrance I’d ever
Seen, wondering what they’d done to make it
So special.” As I said it, I relived the day, and
The water that covered me soared up,
And away, and left me desert dry.
The Navajo dog rolled onto her
Back, offered me her belly to scratch. She sighed.
“And the worst?” she said.
“What was your unhappiest day?”
“A few years later,” I told her, “I was the head
Writer of a very good television show. I wrote the
Best script of my life, and shepherded it through
All the perils of production. And believe me,
There were quite a few. At last came the night my
Episode was scheduled to go on the air. I sat
Back to watch it, and realized my name wasn’t
There. No “Written By,” no credit, no acknowledgment
At all. A great,
Great show, and no one in the universe would
Know it was mine.”
“What did you do?” said the Navajo dog.
And I sued. The studio didn’t pay very much,
But at least they apologized. Seems there was a
Dispute with the Executive Producer. They wanted
To make him angry enough to quit, so they had the
Film editor snip out his name. Unfortunately, he cut
Too much film, and also took mine.
Later, that episode won a big award. At the ceremony
A clip was to be shown. But the studio sent the
Wrong piece of film. There was nothing for me
To do but stand on that stage, frightened
And wordless the whole time.”
The Navajo dog sprang to her feet, flailing paws
Clawing me away. She went to the river and stood
In the waterfall’s spray. “The worst day of my life,”
She said, “was the day before I found you. I was
Five months old, and all I had for food was horse dung.
I found some popcorn, thrown away by a tourist,
But when I started to eat a cat claimed it for her
Own. She terrified me, that cat did, all claws
And hisses and puffed-up chest that she was.
I peed right there, and ran like hell for my
Mother. The bitch was nowhere to be found
That day. Later I learned she had been chasing
A young lamb, driving him around and around,
Until he almost died of exhaustion. That was when
The Indians decided our little family had to return to Mother
Earth. The sins of the mothers, that’s the Navajo way.”
She shook herself, spraying water almost as
Violently as the waterfall, came closer to me,
Shook again. Naked and unmindful, I laughed.
“And your best day?” I said.
“Here,” said the Navajo dog. “Now. Standing in
The water, lying in the grass. Breathing. Listening.
Watching. Picking up the scents of those
Who’ve been here before, or will be here
Tomorrow as well.
Here,” the Navajo dog said again, “now.
The best is always here and now, for a dog. Feeling
The sun as it warms me. Listening to you,
My only begotten son, and finding how far
You have come,
And still have to go.
You’re halfway home,” said the Navajo dog.
“You’ve gotten the joyful part right.
But the bad, oh no, it’s not real, or true,
Or even about you. Looks like I have to stick around.”
Now I sighed, and rolled in the grass,
Went to the bank, felt the wet. I shook myself,
As the dog had done, and took the sacred
Eagle feather from the pouch tied around
My waist. It was soaked, a mess, but had
Done its job, and kept the Navajo dog from knowing
I lied. Because the truth was that the worst
Hadn’t yet come. The worst day of my life
Would be when the Navajo dog
Knew her task was over. The worst day of my
Life would be when she went away.
Larry Brody is the head dood at TVWriter™. Although the book whose cover you see above is for sale on Kindle, he is posting at least one poem a week here at TVWriter™ because, as the Navajo Dog herself once pointed out, “Art has to be free. If you create it for money, you lose your vision, and yourself.” She said it shorter, though, with a snort.