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  • Dr.Pragya Suman

Richard Shelton: Poet of Desert and Prisoners


American poet Richard Shelton died recently on 29 November 2022. A poet of the desert, Shelton spent most of his life in the desert of Arizona. In his debut book, The Tattooed Desert, Richard explores the desert and moves backwardly, but the landscape always remains the same. The spiritual desert of his century underlined his writings, and he seeked solace among prison inmates. Richard started a poetry workshop for socially outcast people, and strangely he seemed to have many artistic flairs among criminals. Walking Rain Review was a literary journal Richard began and edited for prison inmates.

I like his poem “If I Were a Dog

“If I Were a Dog” by Richard Shelton

I would trot down this road sniffing

on one side and then the other

peeing a little here and there

wherever I felt the urge

having a good time what the hell

saving some because it’s a long road

but since I’m not a dog

I walk straight down the road

trying to get home before dark

if I were a dog and I had a master

who beat me I would run away

and go hungry and sniff around

until I found a master who loved me

I could tell by his smell and I

would lick his face so he knew

or maybe it would be a woman

I would protect her we could go

everywhere together even down this

dark road and I wouldn’t run from side

to side sniffing I would always

be protecting her and I would stop

to pee only once in awhile

sometimes in the afternoon we could

go to the park and she would throw

a stick I would bring it back to her

each time I put the stick at her feet

I would say this is my heart

and she would say I will make it fly

but you must bring it back to me

I would always bring it back to her

and to no other if I were a dog

“If I Were a Dog” by Richard Shelton, from The Last Person to Hear Your Voice. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007.

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