“Walking the Dog in the Equinox Twilight” (Poem, “52 Make-Up” Week 11)

For my 52 Makeup Challenge this week, a little poetic experiment. I’m going to try to demonstrate something about revision, and how a rough bunch of words can start to be formed into something poetic. So you’re going to get two versions of some equinox reflections.

The first cut was composed on my phone’s voice recorder as Ringo and I took our walk. It was just an attempt to record every articulable and vaguely on-topic thought over the few minutes of our stroll. I’ve given it a poem-like format on the page but there’s little poetry to it:

Walking the Dog in the Equinox Twilight

As soon as I said “walking the dog,” Ringo, of course, became very excited
But I got him to sit, clipped on the leash, and
we went out the door into the March chill

The ground a little muddy from last week’s snow, now almost all gone
Still, Ringo finds a patch, makes yellow snow
The euonymus just outside the door holds thick green buds
Other plants, though, look much the worse for the ice and snow

I wonder what scents the spring-turning wind brings to Ringo’s nose
He doesn’t see the buds (at my eye level)
How does he experience the spring?

Our walks will be more and more sunlit now
As the days grow longer
If I bring him out again this time in a few weeks
It won’t be twilight

We walk just outside the middle school
I can see in through some of the windows
Posters, maps on the wall
I guess a whole generation of kids has come through this building since I moved here
It’s my second generation of dogs

The grass is mottled brown and green
Ringo digs his nose deep into a tuft of long green onion grass
Sniffs and sniffs and sniffs
I wonder if it’s the plant or another animal’s spoor that he smells

Numbers are much on my mind
I see the accountant about the income taxes tomorrow
This the eighth vernal equinox that Ringo and I have shared
Life being what it is, we probably have fewer ahead of us than behind us
But he is all in the now, all in the nose, as we sniff around the trees
Whatever scents/sense he finds of spring

Come, buddy!

They cleared the snow off the sidewalk with a little bobcat and its tracks have torn up the grass on either side making a mud pit
Short term thinking

On this cloudy night it’s actually darker off in the west, direction of the sunset, than it is off in the east, direction of the city
I see salmon-pink tinging the eastern cloud sky
Overhead it darkens to a deep gray-blue in the west and south

A strange reversal
After days of ice Ringo is eager for every new smell
Every new scent

He is disappointed that I will not explore further
Spring often seems to begin with mud, the thaw
The mess, the muck and the mire
Winter is cleaner, but life is messy, is it not?


So that’s not great, but there are a few lines in there that I kind of like. We’ll do a re-write — talking mostly the same words, trimming redundancies or bits that don’t fit, rearranging, and rephrasing with more emphasis on rhythm. A few lines worked nicely into an iambic pentameter or a loose approximation thereof, but I’m not attempting to use a consistent standard verse form; just paying mind to rhythm while trying to let each line find its own best self.

One of the point I’d like to make about this process is that it is often one cutting than of anything else. Less is more. What we end up with here is still not great poetry, but I think it’s not half bad and hope you can see how it’s further along than the first version.

(Not taken on our walk today, but a nice photo of Ringo)

(Not taken on our walk today, but a nice photo of Ringo)

Walking the Dog in the Equinox Twilight

I got him to sit, clipped on the leash, and
we went out the door into the March chill

The ground a little muddy from the snow
last week, it’s almost gone now —
Spring often starts itself with mud, the thaw
The mess, the muck, the dirt, and the mire
Winter is cleaner, but life is messy, is it not?

Still, Ringo finds a patch, makes yellow snow

The euonymus outside the door holds thick green buds
But other plants look much the worse for the cold

I wonder at the scents the spring-turned wind
brings to Ringo’s nose down by the ground
He doesn’t see the buds (at my eye level)
How does he experience the spring?

Our walks to come will be more sunlit now
If we come out again this time in a few weeks
It won’t be twilight

We walk around outside the middle school
I can see in through some of the windows
Maps and classroom posters on the wall
I guess a whole generation of kids
has come through this building since I moved here

It’s my second generation of dogs

The grass is mottled brown and green
Ringo digs his nose deep into a tuft
of long green onion grass
Sniffs and sniffs and sniffs —
The plant? Some animal spoor? I do not know.

After days of ice he is eager for
Every new smell, every new scent, every renewed thing

This will be the eighth spring that we have shared —
Life being what it is, we probably
have fewer ahead of us than behind us

But he is all in the now,
all in the nose,
as we sniff around the trees
Whatever scents/sense he finds of spring

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About Tom Swiss

Tom Swiss describes his spiritual path as "Zen Pagan Taoist Atheist Discordian", which usually baffles questioners enough to leave him alone. Over the past decade he has built a reputation as a lecturer on subjects spanning the gamut from acupressure to Zen and from self-defense to sexuality. He is an NCCAOM Diplomate in Asian Bodywork Therapy, a godan (fifth-degree black belt) in karate, a poet, a singer/songwriter, an amateur philosopher, and a professional computer geek. Tom has previously served as President of the Free Spirit Alliance. He is the author of "Why Buddha Touched the Earth" (Megalithica Books, 2013). Find out more about his wacky adventures at www.infamous.net.