My dog had lost its collar in a cave,
Whereto, through chasing night, astray it ran
After my whistle panicked in its ears.


It felt its neck pulled onward by a lead,
Not of the twine that it had started with,
To bark to find an exit where it stood.


Till then, that pet of mine began to kneel
And sniff depressingly the moist, old smells
That marked the absence of a mastered foot.


An echo came with scent of something else
That made the coward march from where it lay
Into the definite hardness of a wall.


It wailed despairing as it broke its jaw
And lost the power to whisper, mouth agape
Inside of which my dog would wander on.


Escaping through the pitch, it heard its name
But did not turn to meet who called it by it,
Lest he should be a kind man and not me.


There was a stony passageway that span
Each time my dog remained on granite squares
That could repel a friend, if following.


It churned a breed of cat it once had met
Which could not tell the safer rocks from traps,
That now my dog passed by, on with its work.


Which path it claimed to shake its tail along
There was another that its nose knew well
For the right way out, though in a blindness closed.


When with a prideful yelp my dog chose one
And felt the blood retreat within its snout,
Its sideway eyes perceived a light in front.


It was the lantern that I had not lost,
But left from me upon its own accord;
To be returned, now that my dog could grasp.


It used its mouth to tow the beacon on,
Warning its ward from where it could not go
Yet further in to find itself beyond.


Depth out of route, they watched me lying by
Another stone as darkened by my head,
In patience to confirm the very worst.


We went on from then, but did not cease
Appointing paths to follow and to lose;
So long as it always found me, I was there.


Squandering my fingers in my mouth,
I’d blow a noise and it would free its throat
If there was no more torchlight left to swallow.


I called my dog; retiringly, he came
For me to collar and with lantern lead
Into the night, away from sheltering.

Illustration by Edward McLaren.