That shiny steel flag-pole that spired skyward in our back yard:
It was too high; it was too slippery.
I was too weak; I was too young.
I was just a little boy, barely four years.
It was too thick; I couldn’t do it.
There was no way; it was utterly and finally impossible.
I’d tried a thousand times and never got a foot off the ground.
My dad had stayed behind in Portugal (why?).
My mom and I lived alone in Kent (why?).
And, I tried — tried to climb that pole, tried, and tried.
But some things, some things, you see, are never meant to be.
One day — I played in the yard alone (where was Mom?)
I could smell, feel, before I saw It charging: –That dog of fangs,
That terrible wolf of the wilderness — god of tooth and claw
Barking its horrible happy knell of death —
Its ruff raised, its snarling snipe, its gurgling growl,
Black lips baring back those snipping, chattering, yellow teeth —
Close and closer. I clambered and climbed the impossible pole,
Shinnied to the very top and held on for a minute, for a lifetime.
Thank God for challenge; thank God for Life in all its fierce forms;
Thank God for courage and — thank you God for vicious dogs.