Friday, February 12, 2016

I Wish I'd Written This

Red Collar
By Tanya Delys Mandorla

I taught my dogs to live in the moment.
Both of them were standing in the pound’s cement cells
thinking ahead to grass.
Both wishing they had smokes to barter for marrow split bones
a tin can to rap along the bars and howl the blues, so moonshine rich,
those cute girls in overalls…
them cooing, patting, pretty girl volunteers
who cleaned up desperate shit every day and hosed their workplace tears
filled with wolf croons, away…would let them out.
My dogs watched me come along
with my siren’s song
a lush life of tax check and a car full of juice, the windows rolled down.
They watched me stop, block to block with the cool eye of a killer,
my red collar warning I was dangerous around babies
I required a big fence, a choke chain collar and desexing.
They watched me arrive at their bars and sat like good boys
I said “Get in the car.”
They sat perfectly straight, two old lawn bowlers out for the day, torturing p platers
with over braking and ten k’s under the speed limit
they just needed their white bowling hats.
I couldn’t stop laughing at them in the rear view mirror.
My car kingdom smelled of hair conditioner, ashtray, triple J and petrol receipts blowing into their vulpine eyes.
They were too grateful to ride the wind then
both sat real straight and learned fast when I yelled “stomach muscles!” meant brace, or wear the dashboard.
I took them home to home one, home two, home no dogs, home no fence, home five outside dogs, home six inside dogs/outside person basking on her verandah.
My dogs learnt to lie in the moment.
They learnt to get real apologetic and distract authority when I hackled up.
They made soft brown, beaming eyes and upside down clown mouths at my den mother threats.
They got fat with me
and we all clipped our nails together in afternoon pyjama parties on the outside person verandah.
I reminded them, to go back, go way back to their ancestors
back to when life was laying in the winter sun of a morning
eating baked dinner scraps, enough to last for the future famine
raising howls as a toast instead of a protest.
We live safe in the smell of each other’s shit
I taught my dogs to live in the moment
and when they die, if they die before me
I shall strap on my red collar
and go and rescue two more.

Notes:  p platers are new drivers on probation.

Triple J is a radio station. (As Wikipedia says: 'Triple j is a government-funded national Australian radio station intended to appeal to listeners between the ages of 18 and 24. The station places a greater emphasis on Australian music and alternative music compared to commercial stations.)

I know there are plenty of dog lovers here, so there is not much I need to say to recommend this.

Tanya lives in the same geographical region as me, but not so close that we get to meet since I stopped driving to night-time poetry readings in other towns. However, we are connected on good old facebook.

The bio notes she supplied are brief and to the point:

Tanya Delys Mandorla is a radio presenter on River FM Lismore.

She has one book of poetry, Burn The Brunette and is currently working on a second collection.

I'm the lucky owner of a copy of Burn the Brunette (which unfortunately is only available in paperback, not ebook) and I can tell you it is all as wild and wonderful as the poem I've shared with you; it positively sizzles. Her poetry works equally well spoken aloud or on the page – which I guess is what most of us aspire to.

Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).


  1. Oh I adore this. I can just see those faces, going through all the changes so vividly described.........I love this poem and the poet......Rosemary, way over here in Canada, how can I find more of her work? does she have a blog? Post it on facebook? I am now a huge fan. Thank you so much for brightening this Friday with such a feel-wonderful poem!

  2. This poet captures how humans and animals communicate! Lots of love here.

  3. Yes yes. Any poet who didn't wish they could write like this should have their head read. She's funny without being silly,loving without sentimentality,lengthy without boredom. She wraps it up soulfully without making me sad. Love this poet, her dogs are fortunate.

  4. "They got fat with me
    and we all clipped our nails together in afternoon pyjama parties on the outside person verandah" this...what a treat today Rosemary!...

  5. Oh, this is truly a delightful poem, Rosemary! I absolutely love it. I smiled throughout. This woman truly knows and loves dogs. Lots of favorite lines, but if I had to choose a few:

    "I taught my dogs to live in the moment
    and when they die, if they die before me
    I shall strap on my red collar
    and go and rescue two more."

    Ha, but I don't know who teaches who to live in the moment. I think perhaps it is dogs who teach humans the importance of that. Smiles.

  6. Tanya is a writer and a poet slumming it up in Lismore when she should be in bookstores everywhere and lauded as a national treasure like Tim Winton. Tanya has been producing work this exquisite and perfected for decades. Proud to call her a mate.

  7. What a delight to read, so much great purpose in taking care of dogs (and being taken care as well)

  8. Awww...what a warm hearted piece....there's so much to feast on!! Love this!


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