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By Benjamin Busch

On our hill there was a trail to the moon.
Our black dog found it, beat it into the ground with his paws.
It could be supposed that he hated moons,
that his ferocity was more than dutiful, 
but we’ll never know.
At night he would run, hackles up, furious,
in a line through the grass
to join the darkness at the crest
where the moon was found, again, 
not to be resting, but higher still in the sky 
where he had driven it, bright and silent 
above the night echo of warnings
barked hard and serious.
Years of this.
Even when he was old 
and groaned as he rose from the floor, 
he would summon his fury and run at the sky.

When he died, we walked the ashes up his path,
left them as close to the moon as any of us could get,
dog burned off, black as he ever was, 
a Labrador the color of crows, 
spread out into grass growing back,
his mark on the hillside fading,
filling in those thousands of nights he labored his voice into space,
yelled to himself as he ran:
Defend the house.
Defend the house.
Be fearless and savage.
Stop at nothing but the top of the earth.
And to the moon:
You are too close to what is mine.

Good dog.

All he needed to hear for a lifetime of soldiering.
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About Benjamin Busch

Benjamin Busch is the author of a memoir, Dust to Dust (Ecco/HarperCollins), and his essays have appeared in Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine and NPR’s All Things Considered. His poetry has appeared in North American Review, Prairie Schooner, Five Points, The Florida Review, Mudfish and Michigan Quarterly Review among others.


  1. Sharon Corn Rein
    Posted April 2014 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    So hard to lose a good dog. It’s a lovely poem.

  2. Posted April 2014 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    A fine, fine poem, Benjamin. A pleasure to read it. I love all that dog yelling at the end. Poignant and memorable. The whole thing.

  3. Susan
    Posted April 2014 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Splendid poem. They do give us their lifetimes don’t they? Your words remind me how much they’re missed. Ozzy and Annie. Your words.

  4. Worth Parker
    Posted April 2014 at 10:54 am | Permalink


    I am not a poetry guy, but the last stanza simply broke me off. Well done.


  5. Rebecca Bahr
    Posted April 2014 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Hi Benjamin,

    I met you at West Point last year ( my brother Fax made the documentary Hearts of Darkness) and Peter Molin shared the link with me. Beautiful poem. Made me think about Mary Oliver’s dog poems. Thank you.

    Becca Bahr

  6. Nancy DeCamillis
    Posted April 2014 at 3:09 pm | nba odds 2019Permalink

    I enjoyed your poem Benjamin. I read Dust to Dust in 2012. I picked it up last week to re-read. It brings back many memories of my four sons and their childhood ventures into the woods that surrounded our home. The second trip through your memoir is as memorable as the first time. Thanks, Nancy

  7. Betsy Emdin
    Posted April 2014 at 1:06 am | Permalink

    I am stunned at the serendipity of how things, words, poems fall into our lives. Yesterday, I had my dear old beagle put down. It was unexpected, jolting. She was a quirky dog, who never noticed the moon, her hound nose kept her focus on the earth. Her barking was for begging. I grieve even her annoying habits. Thank you, Ben, for this beautiful work.

  8. Dennis F.
    Posted April 2014 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Sempre Fi in Canis verse…. Woof!

  9. Eddie Wilson
    Posted April 2014 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Semper Fidelis, old friend.

  10. Cathey Avery
    Posted April 2014 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Such a beautiful poem for what I can feel was a wonderful friend and defender.
    Well done!

  11. Carol Ann L.
    Posted April 2014 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Very moving poem, Ben. Way to interpret dog think/speak and express it in beautiful human language!

  12. Rob B.
    Posted October 2018 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Very moving. I think any dog lover can relate… I’ll love my Filip a little more tonight after reading this.

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