Sometimes when I look at our dog Jack I think
he might be my Radical American History professor come back to make amends
—he gazes at me so sorrowfully.
What is it Jack, I say, why do you look like that? But Jack
doesn’t answer; he lies down and rests his head on his paws.
Black hair covered nearly all of that man’s body, thick
under his blue oxford shirt when I put my hand there.
Perhaps that accounted for the bow tie,
the pipe, the tweed cap.
This time I can teach him to sit and to stay.
Stay, I say to Jack, who looks at the treat in my hand
and then at me, and at the treat and then at me, and he stays.
Come, I say to Jack, but Jack does not always come.
Sometimes he sits and looks at me a long time
as when my professor would lean back in his chair
draw on his pipe and gaze at me.
But when I hold a treat Jack comes, and I remember how
the professor would lick dripping honey from the jar
lick peanut butter from the knife.
A little stubborn, our dog Jack,
shy, we thought
until the morning my daughter jumped on my bed
and Jack sprang at her growling.
And the next morning, when he rushed toward her growling
and bit her skirt and tore it, and bit her and broke her skin,
and when I went to collar him, bit me, snarling, and bit and bit.
That’s when I was pretty sure he was my history professor.
The vet said this happens more often than you’d imagine.
He must always be tethered, she said, until he can be trusted.
He must learn that you and your daughter come first.
And no more couch, and no more sleeping in the bed with you, Mama,
I finally left him so late at night it was nearly dawn—
picking up my boots by the door,
stepping down the two flights, then running toward the car.
What can I say? Jack may be my American History professor come back,
after all these years, to make amends,
or Jack may be actually himself—a dog.