Poets Walk: duty's whistle

Poet's Walk: "duty's whistle"

Location on Poets Walk Map: 26


Three Days of a Forest, a River, Free by Rita Dove


The dogs have nothing better

to do than bark; duty's whistle

slings a bright cord

around their throats.

I'll stand here all night

if need be, no more real

than a tree when no moon shines.

The terror of waking is a trust

drawn out unbearably

until nothing, not even love,

makes it easier, and yet

I love this life:

three days of forest,

the mute riot of leaves.

Who can point out a smell

but a dog? The way is free

to the river. Tell me,

Lord, how it feels

to burst out like a rose.

Blood rises in my head—

I'm there.

Faint tongue, dry fear,

I think I lost you to the dogs,

so far off now they're no

more than a chain of bells

ringing darkly, underground.


Rita Dove, "Three Days of Forest, a River, Free" from Museum (Pittsburgh: Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1983). Copyright © 1983 by Rita Dove. Used by permission of the author.