Excerpt from 'Afterglow'
(a dog memoir)
By Eileen Myles
Grove Atlantic, Inc.
All rights reserved.
One day, in 1999, an awkward hand-addressed letter appeared in my hallway.
The mailman threw everything on the stairs. I grabbed the letter & headed with Rosie to the dog run which in that neighborhood was a skimpy little triangle at 39 th Street west of 9th Ave. It was an amazing perspective on mid-town roofs and also dull traffic heading to New Jersey. My neighbors were weird. Sad former actors. I liked the pink-cheeked older woman named Doris who walked everyone in the neighborhood's dogs including mine. This is like sixteen years ago so Doris is probably dead. Sitting on a bench while Rosie sniffed the ground I tore open the strange note. It read:
I take the liberty of calling you "Eileen" to begin the unpleasant duty of forcing you to legally take responsibility for the damages you have inflicted over a period of nine years upon the being you have taken to calling "Rosie." I am Rosie's lawyer. Dog lawyers have only become possible in recent years, even months. Which is not to say crimes of all kinds against dogs are "new" in any way. Crimes against dogs are ancient and widespread, but dogs having the wherewithal to attain legal representation is new indeed. My services have been retained thanks to a generous bequest by an anonymous donor who set up a foundation in her will for the explicit purpose of identifying dogs who were likely litigants, candidates for beginning the long and arduous process of getting the ball rolling on dogs' rights. It's been clear to my client during her life and most pressingly at the time of her death that the best way to make this need known would be to take up an individual dog's case, not the case of "all dogs" which is too ubiquitous to pursue in the explicit way the law makes possible for human litigants, who are generally assumed to be individuals. A wealthy individual, of course, does not have more rights than a poor one. We are all brought up to honor "human rights," but only wealthy humans are able to use the full force of the law; i.e., obtain high quality representation. By this logic, there can be no freedom for dogs unless there are wealthy dogs. There is one today, the dog formerly known as Rosie. She has been left a significant sum of money in my client's will. She may spend it as she pleases with the single stipulation that she obtain counsel and press charges against her owner for a variety of abuses and crimes against dog kind. As you know, Eileen Myles, that owner is you.
It seemed unbelievable to me. Rosie was about ten. I looked at her licking an empty wrapper against the fence. She appeared entirely innocent of the letter's content. What? Are we already going home she seemed to say. Okay. I don't think she knows anything about this. I popped the leash back on and walked home planning my day. The loft we lived in was right across from Port Authority. Day and night I watched the lights of buses sail in and out of the building. I thought about the letter from time to time. I mean for years. I showed it to people. They laughed and smiled. Could Rosie and my entire relationship be framed as blame. I did force her to have sex with Buster that one time. No twice. Could I write a book about that. I've never been an "idea" writer. I have like a spurt then I go do something else. But this would be her book. A dog book is a great idea ...
Excerpted from Afterglow by Eileen Myles. Copyright © 2017 Eileen Myles. Excerpted by permission of Grove Atlantic, Inc..
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