Nijinsky's Dog

Nijinsky danced his last dance, "World War I,"
in January of 1919. He then suffered an
irreparable breakdown.


Nijinsky's dog, if he had one, died last August.

She was a beautiful animal
with all that was rational
beaten out of her strong
cleanly chiseled head.
We'd circle each other,
lonely, in the heat
of the late summer nights,
both of us waiting for you--
for some crumb of attention.
When I didn't finish the dinner
you'd sometimes offer,
you'd slip it into her bowl
and she'd spring toward you,
more starved for love than food.
I'd watch her from my chair,
passing the time until you'd turn yourself
toward me--remember (O please)
I was there. Out on the ledge


she'd sit, elegant and damaged--
her scars buried in her dense gnarled
fur. Since I've come up here I twist
my hair so hard it snaps
and now I have a bald spot
that my barrettes can barely cover. You


almost seemed to cry
when you told me that she died.
But as I came closer I saw
your eyes completely
dry. You left her
on that hot August roof--
the tar blistering
her dog feet. She couldn't stand
to touch the surface
so she sat and sat
on that asphalt edge,
her mind on fire with memory
of how you once took care
with her, gave her a yard
to play in, rolled with her
in cool green grass.
She'd dream of that
and want it back--before
the war that destroyed her world:
your wife's shrieks take the goddamn
dog if you leave


me. And the dog
in her dog mind thought and thought
it was all her fault.
I wish I'd been there
when she took her leap
into the too blue, parched
air, over the anchored
oak tree and the naive lilies
reaching toward the idle sky,
to see her resolve--the pause,
then the quick


amazing move--the elevation, the gift
of rising, her thick mane ablaze
against the dazed noonday sun.
How she broke
free in that grand jet,
sailing in holy
madness past her dog life,
her soul bounding out
of her sad dog eyes
while her ragged body hit
a barren patch of earth.

 

 

 

 

Hahn, Susan. Confession. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1997.