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By Vincent O’Sullivan

I’m in charge of a cage. I know those that won’t.

I don’t mean can’t. Just won’t. There’s a roster

for Tuesdays, Fridays. Dogs to die.


The disconsolate, the abandoned, those with recurrent

symptoms, the incorrigible mutt — oh, a dozen

choices by way of reasons. Even so,


some won’t. Won’t play along once their number’s

up. The “rainbow bridge” in the offing

as the posher clinics put it, a pig’s ear


as a final treat, a venison chew, the profession

behaving beautifully at a time like this.

Still, those that won’t. Won’t go nicely, I mean,


with a gaze to melt, a last slobbed lick.

Those with a soul’s defiance, though embarrassment

in the lunchroom should you come at that one!


Even after the bag is zipped, you feel it:

We’re real at the end as you are, buster. We sniff

the wind. What say if we say it together? Won’t.


Source: Poetry (February 2018)

Poet Bio

Vincent O’Sullivan lives in Dunedin and is a novelist, short story writer, biographer, playwright, and poet. He was New Zealand Poet Laureate 2013–2015.

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