Vasco Graça Moura - a dog for pompei

rather than a pair of embracing lovers i propose
a dog from pompei. one that was no doubt
frolicking next to the forum, in search of a bone,
when friskier vesuvius caught and molded him

into pumice-stone. i insist
on seeing him as a scrawny, neglected creature
for whom poverty was a way of life. he skipped
through peristyles, a stranger to luxury, to corruption

to astrology, and no poisoned morsel ever befell him
from the triclinia, he never became
a symbolic animal or barking myth.
he was never found in any excavation, but we summon him now.

he was just a dog, un chien, who had fleas and
raised his paw like all dogs
and yelped and bit when necessary.
he lived for today and, faun of street corners, for bitches in heat.

a sign no doubt read cave canem in tiny tesserae,
making no mark in history, surviving only
in expurgated books in latin, mixed up
with the gallic wars and a few names of gods.

i sing of a dog without fable or pedigree, who didn’t escape fate,
an ordinary mutt belonging, let’s say, to pliny
the elder, who happens to have died nearby,
perhaps screaming, a few days later.

“you’re so cerebral,” said vexed and golden-haired chloe.
“yes,” i replied cautiously, “but so are a lot of other people.
and love and death have always been ponderable.”
“besides,” i added, “what harm does it do the dog?”

© 1987, Vasco Graça Moura
From: A furiosa paixão pelo tangível
Publisher: Quetzal, Lisbon, 1987
ISBN: 972-564-028-9
© Translation: 1998, Richard Zenith