Eight Puppies – Mistral

Eight Puppies

Gabriela Mistral

This poem really stood out to me when I read it because of its simplicity and tenderness. Mistral’s words caress you and surround you with warm words. Mistral’s last section of this poem especially stood out to me. I resonated with her statement of wishing to be born again in her next life amongst the puppies; begin again with a clean slate and be given another chance to live over every first experience, contributing to the motif of humanities desire to relive their childhood, begin their life again; to regain their youth.

Mistral’s voice enforces the closeness of her relationship to the natural, more-than-human world. She talks about how the puppies began to have their very first experiences in life, writing about how they “opened their eyes. They saw the world all at once, eager, scared, delighted.” She confessed she is enthralled by all the puppies, but that the puppies saw her “shrieking and then laughing.” She writes about how she looks into their mother’s eyes, connecting to a non-human figure, reinforcing the relationship between Mistral and the more-than-human world. Her voice describes her surroundings comfortably, content with the “flood of light” and “azaleas in the flower”; and in becoming one of these animals in another life, she too would be a “daughter of God”, becoming one of his angelic “obscure and sacred servants”.

The puppies play an active role in Mistral’s detailed experience. They are the protagonists in Mistral’s account. Seeing, smelling, touching, tasting, and hearing everything for the very first time, the puppies are portrayed as clambering around, fumbling over their own legs, teaching themselves how to run and jump, eight puppies launching their bodies, stumbling across the room’s floor. Leaving Mistral entranced, confessing her enchantment with the newborn animals, their ability “to run, to stop, to run, to tumble down and whine and jump up in delight”, how they are “shot through with sunlight”.

In the third and last stanza, Mistral shifts her narration from the puppies to her own observations occurring. Mistral uses the puppies as a metaphor for her relationship with God. The “man’s best friend” relationship shes newly experienced is her ideal relationship between herself and a higher being. She wishes to live carefree, to “bounce out from banana-groves”, but also under the comfort of a higher power, just as the puppies live under the protection of their mother.

This poem overwhelmed me with a sentimental and nostalgic feeling. The poem reminded me of life’s fragility and spontaneity. The quickness of life and in turn, death. Mistral illustrates a dreamy scene of young life,

triggering warm memories, reminding you of the earliest moments of your own life, moments between you and other humans and humanity, and moments between you and the more-than-human world. This poem connects with other works in class through the author detailing an experience that connected them with non-human living beings.

Eight Puppies

Gabriela Mistral

Between the thirteenth and the fifteenth day

the puppies opened their eyes.

They saw the world all at once,

eager, scared, delighted.

They saw their mother’s belly,

their door, which is my door,

the flood of light,

The azaleas in flower. 

They saw more; they saw each other,

red, black, grey;

waddling and clambering,

Friskier than squirrels,

they saw their mother’s eyes,

they saw me shrieking and then laughing.

And I wanted to be born with them.

Why not, the next time?

To bounce out from banana-groves

on a morning of marvels,

as a dog, she-coyote, doe -

to look with great dark eyes,

to run, to stop, to run, to tumble down

and whine and jump up in delight,

shot through with sunlight and barking,

daughter of God, obscure and sacred servant.

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