Kay Ryan

Fool’s Errand
by Kay Ryan

A thing
cannot be
delivered
enough times:
this is the
rule of dogs
for whom there
are no fool’s
errands. To
loop out and
come back is
good all alone.
It’s gravy to
carry a ball
or a bone.

Appears in The New Yorker, August 10&17, 2009

Editorial: This poem evokes a childhood memory steeped in carefreeness. It goes something like this. My family had a trampoline growing up that I would jump on endlessly with my siblings, friends and neighbors. We called it the tramp. We also had a much-loved dog named Mimi who learned how to poke her head through the springs on the edge of the tramp while standing on her hind legs. She was a Springer Spaniel and she did this trick in order to spit out her tennis ball at our bouncing feet. One of us would then dive for the ball, jump as high as we could on the tramp, and hurl the ball forever in whatever direction. Sometimes we would do that trick when you fake a throw one way and then hurl it the other while Mimi had her head turned. It didn’t matter to Mimi. She eventually always found the ball. We could throw it into the deepest bush, over the house, over the fence, over the fence and across the street, over the fence across the street and over the next fence, and on and on. (Why we led her across the busy street with our throws I’ll never know.) It occurs to me now reading Ryan’s poem that while it took Mimi all of ten seconds to execute her trick of depositing the ball through the springs on the tramp, it might have taken her ten or twenty minutes to find her ball buried deep in a hedge far away. I always imagined that she was seeking our approval by proudly retrieving the ball. But this poem gives me pause and makes me wonder whether Mimi considered us jumpers an inconvenient necessity. Maybe all we were to her was a means to looping out, and that her pride and joy was not the delivery, but the search and discovery.

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Filed under Editorial, Poems, Sureness

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