Shane McCrae

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Shane McCrae

The King of the Sadnesses of Dogs

I brought my gift to the king of the sadnesses of dogs
He sighed the sigh he sighs     in the stories children read
The sigh that makes the dogs of the kingdom howl     no matter
How far from the king the dogs might rest     their noisy heads

I set my gift on     one of the stacks     at the foot of the steps
By which one mounts from the long blue gold-fringed rug     to the foot
Of the throne of the king I walked     the length of the hall beside
The rug upon which none but the king walks     and set

My gift on top of the stack     then bowed and backed away
The throne looked chiseled from a single stone the color
Of yellowed bone     and flecked with brown like meat and blood
Clinging to bone     the stain and spread of them being yellow

He sighed the sigh he sighs     and close disharmonies
Filled the grand hall     as if an organist had pressed
Down all the keys     of a pipe organ bigger than
The hall itself the stampede     of dogs’ sadnesses

Rattled the men in the stained glass     in the high windows
At which the sunlight stopped      through which it could not pass
Sadnesses crowded so against the glass     I tripped and
Fell and was pinned by the howls      flat on my back     on the glass-

y stones beside the rug

                                              I saw myself a man-
Sized beetle writhing on the glassy green and white
Stones my arms flapping my green     body twisting     bucking
To free itself of the vision by enacting it

Trapped by its struggle to get free     I saw myself
And saw     the gold I weeks before had scooped from the stream
Beside my shanty     in my hand in the small water
Cupped in my hand      and saw the thin ring I had ham-

mered from the gold      sunken in the glass box     I had bor-
rowed from my neighbor     knowing I never would return it
I saw myself     writhing on the stones     wearing the finest suit my
Neighbor would lend me     and I saw myself     still     sending

It back by courier from the palace     in a burlap
Sack stamped with the king’s seal     while the howls shook the stones
As if they were an army stamping on the stones
I writhed and trembled hoping      still on the trembling stones

Shane McCrae reads “The King of the Sadnesses of Dogs”

Shane McCrae’s most recent books are Sometimes I Never Suffered, shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize, and The Gilded Auction Block, both published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Later this year, the Cleveland State University Poetry Center will release an expanded edition of his first book, Mule, with an introduction by Victoria Chang. McCrae has received a Lannan Literary Award, a Whiting Writer’s Award, an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. He lives in New York City and teaches at Columbia University.