Dog Language
Chase Twichell
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Buy *Dog Language: Poems* by Chase Twichellonline

Dog Language: Poems
Chase Twichell
Copper Canyon Press
111 pages
December 2005
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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In Dog Language, Chase Twichell opens a kaleidoscope of images and feelings, prompted by memory and a profound love of pets, those noble companions who offer comfort in our darkest hours. But even pets grow old, as do those we love. In these selections, Twichell takes that journey, from childhood to the loss of a parent, shredding memory with perception, pain with understanding and rage with grief.

Childhood is defined in small moments, in individual memories, opportunities:

“We had a pact to live outside
the adult world forever,
and we broke it.

We lost each other. Nothing was left
of the trees but stumps of gravestones:
Huck Finn, Toby Tyler, and me.”
   (The Fork in the Moment)
First love leaves an indelible mark on the soul, a weight to be carried through the years, a small burr of discontent trapped between ribs:
“You were cruel, first love.
The beauty you made
in my eye blinded me
while your body wed me,
so all the years of my youth
I was your widow.”
   (The Last Knot)
Once begun, the journey toward the self cannot be stopped, the choice to face the truth of the moment, for it is only truth that offers freedom from the small tyrannies of the past:
“The truth is, she’s a child
who stopped growing.

… you want to know
how she became a gnarled branch

I was sure she had secrets,
but she had no secrets.

I had to tell her mine.”
A lifetime of self-revelation carries its own definition, a kind of rare courage found so frequently in these poems, as well as an acceptance of limitations. But the animals, non-judgmental and unreservedly loving, remain a well of comfort:
“Stay with me, dogs,
black-and-white spirits
asleep by the door,
none of us yet wandering among
the hordes that Dante saw.
Come, Nan.
Come lie beside my chair
and be my muse.”
   (The Tail)
It is impossible to relate the joy and depth of Twichell’s work, the myriad images that free me to discover my own, to retrieve the seemingly insignificant for further reflection. The poet’s gift, her love of language is inspiring, a celebration of a lifetime of moments, the embrace of conflicting emotions, and the skill to turn phrases into shining castles.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2007

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