The Sound of Elsa’s Breathing

A view of the constellation Canis Major. The brightest star in the grouping is Sirius, which was referred to by the ancients as “The Dog Star.”

This is a poem I wrote about my German Shepherd, Elsa, who died 16 years ago today. I have a great many memories of hours spent writing (poems, articles, etc.) while she sat curled up on the couch next to me snoozing. At certain odd moments I would pause from my writing as I would become acutely conscious of the sound of her breathing. It was a sound that invariably filled me with a sense of inner peace and serenity. Thinking of her passage, as I do at this time each year, gives me a feeling of how temporary our life on this earth really is.

The Sound of Elsa’s Breathing

How much longer will your chest continue to rise

And fall when you lay on your side, your eyes,
In REM sleep, unseeing, narrow seams,
Behind which your brain, like mine, maps its dreams?

Lulled to slumber by that sound so often I’ve been,
Or merely infused with contentment and peace within.
It is my mantra, my Om, my Buddhist prayer–
Moving in and out of your sleeping lungs, that air.

Years ago–my God–quite something you were!
Beautiful, strong, fleet of foot, astir
With life, proud Shepherd, you put them all to shame,
You and I linked by illness, together in pain.

Yet you vouchsafed me perfection, quite apparent to see,
It was, stargazer, you had eyes only for me.
Would that I really were a God, dear girl so true,
For a God would never have allowed this to happen to you.

You got old, while I (at least, to a degree)
Stayed young, and that’s what saddens me, you see.
Tiredly, on our walks in the Golden Gate fog,
You’re much slower now, broken down old dog.

That day approaches when I no longer will hear
That heavenly sound which has stabilized me for years.
Alas time has done its famous number on you,
But to tell the truth, I feel, it’s done one on me too.

By Richard Edmondson


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