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Sleep by day, guard by night the steps at Lafranchi

Until after dinner when Byron and I write together –

Up the marble stairs to his study, the orange tree at midnight.

Gin and water on the veranda as we write at dusk:

His Don Juan, my Diary of a Dog in Heat (Book I).

Byron thinks it my best prose yet but beyond the title,

Can I really hold a gentleman’s attention?

Will the critics care that I’m canine?


Amongst friends in this menagerie: the monkey and mastiff,

Nine horses for his five carriages, one falcon, a pair of cats

One of whom was at Cambridge with his Lordship

And told the peafowl (who told me) that Byron kept a bear there

Before he woke up famous, before the Separation

Before he became the Lucifer of literature

And left London for good.


With the help of sardines, Byron has taught me to write

I’m quite proficient though I can’t cross my Ts

Still, he calls me the paragon of animals

Only I have seen our Lord’s deformity, the crippled foot

He sometimes calls the “externalization” of his soul

Only I attend each nocturnal routine:

The baths, the mirror-gazing, the naked guests in Venetian masks.


When I’m silent too long, his Lordship reminds me

That the public only knows Byron the poet

But what they want is Byron the man

Only I can narrate the night of the stabbing

All seven servants were in quite a state

When the Countess’s brother, bloodied, stumbled to the parlor

Where his Lordship was composing at the time

Late to his side, I was ashamed.


An English bulldog in Italy is like a fish out of oil

If that’s the expression?  (Note: ask L.B.)

London’s fog was good for my airways

But the air in Pisa reeks of garlick

That obnoxious spice, as ahorrent as Mr. Shelley said

As if his Lordship would even know

Living, as he does, on biscuits and diuretics

Our Lord frets too much about his waistline

As a result, table scraps are paltry here in the palace

But I can’t complain so long as I sing for my supper

And that supper is sardines. 


– Breckenridge, Colorado (7/2011)