In the Style of Robert W. Service: What Makes Us Run?

(For an introduction to the series “In the Style Of…” please see our search bar for the immediately prior post entitled, “To All Collegiate Poetry Snobs,” ending with the lines:

“Think my claims are empty boasts?
Just read these next dozen posts“)


The mid of an Alaskan night
Lasts clear on through till Spring
One hundred times the darkness
Any southern night can bring
One hundred times the cold to make
Those wolves get up and sing
One hundred times the trouble
To accomplish anything

Where for a dozen miles around
No flora marks the fallen snow
No timber to give of itself
To feed a fireside glow
No generous sweet fruit trees
In ones nearby pastures grow
No garden harvest to assure
Ye’ll not starvation know

Oh, grim can be the season
When frost crackles in the hair
And every animal is tucked up
Snug in its own lair
It hurts the lungs even to breath
The knives of icy air
Ye’ll learn what true aloneness is:
Nothing and no one there

Those who survive to tell the tale
Know how to prepare
Know how to lay up warmth and food
With every special care
It wouldn’t do to lose
Full three month’s rations to a bear
Or suddenly discover
Ye’ve run out of underwear

In the days before the motor
Midwinter emergency
Had but one single way
To any hope of easement see
When someone in distress had
Elsewhere suddenly to be
One method only would allow
That man to travel free

His ally was the sled dog
Which into harness went
With perhaps a dozen others
Also to that harness bent
In this unending labor
All their energies were spent
While on a trek the huskies
Did not know what leisure meant

To such a labor motivate
Whips insufficient are
With these alone the drivers would
Have found themselves at war
Their dogs refuse to take them
Very fast or very far
All access to that harness
Would summarily debar

It necessary was
Some more incentive to create
To make those dogs run early
And run long and yet run late
Nor their completely necessary
Willingness abate
The way that they succeeded
Is a story to relate

They did prevail, there is no doubt
Those animals came willing to
Their workloads as if working hours
Were far between and few
And pulled like very demons
The entire journey through
What was the crucial secret
That those ancient drivers knew?

They knew to put the alpha dog
Into the foremost trace
He whom each other one desired
In battle to the death embrace
Though he might finish crippled,
For in the other case
Victory would make his brothers
Cringe before his face

And all trek long that alpha dog
Would for his life a-running go
With every mortal enemy
Behind him in the snow
Until he died he never would
A moment’s true rest know
Unendingly pursued by
His violent overthrow

At least dogs, unlike humans
Won’t attack him in his sleep
Or from his life his loved ones
By their innuendos sweep
Or put him in a cage
He all his lifetime there to keep
Oh, humans know much more than dogs
‘Bout how to make ye weep

But in some other ways
The slow evolving hominid
Still does as his most primitive
Ancestors ever did
When power’s shone and they’re alone
They keep their tails well hid
But show them vuln’rability
Of scruples they are rid

And nothing’s what they’ll stop at
As they’re tearing at the throat
And growling in the cringing ear
And slashing at the coat
As even when submission’s shown
They’re still around to gloat
Heaping more pain on he whom
They’ve succeeded to demote

And what is their reward for all
This frantic energy?
That one of them assume the place
Bought by that victory
To run from all the others
In this life eternally —
Can we troglodyte humans
On no better way agree?

Are we not a mature enough
Species yet to understand
We’re put here in this harness
By some as yet unseen hand
And mightn’t run in abject fear
To meet the day’s demand
But fly cooperatively
Across a willing land

The one with sharpest eyes ahead
The cautious further back
Each member’s strengths augmenting
Those the other ones may lack
Till of cooperation we
At last have learned the knack?
Then it will be as obvious
As white must be on black

That all this envy, anger, spite
Is only wasted energy
We really can achieve our goals
Much, much more easily
Working together than apart:
Far from indulgent fantasy
Seen clearly as the only path
Of practicality!

So call this poet if you must
A dreamer and an ass
It seems to her that this is why
Our children go to class
Insight and wisdom and technique
There slowly to amass
That future generations
Our own may indeed surpass

And wonderful the prospect, for
Think how it will be when we do
Keep both our goals and also
One another’s needs in view
So much frustration will be saved
We’ll get to take a few
Moments I cannot spare right now to
Sit and talk to you…

— Ana Daksina

Among us, poets are not paid. The poet/editor of this website, being physically disabled, lives at a fraction of her nation’s poverty level. Become a patron of the fine arts at:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s