and tenderness (massaging the arms, sponging the lips) morphed into a dog howling under the bed, the bruised body that had carried us, splaying itself now, not abstract but symbolic, like the hot water bottle, the plastic rosaries
I like associative leaps , the abrupt insertion of an image that although seeming unlike the conversation that preceded it will, on review, suggest a larger emotion, or a larger set of conditions a narrator has yet to realize. This would be the shadow poem, the text of what the writer hasn't said or referred to, the unspoken thing, names, that demands an airing. Cole's dog image is doubly hindered,though, first the near comic placement of the dog under the bed--these are the bits of country songs and stale jokes--the next being that it's a cliche. Anthropomorphising an animal to convey complex emotion is a trick that's been used up in contemporary literature--although the poems of Ted Hughes and some of John Hawk's novels are notable exceptions-- that has become an animator's tool. Unreality isn't a sin in poetry--we insist on it, generally--but a poet's lack of conviction is. The rhetoric swells, the sentences turn into an unemphatic stream :
like the hot water bottle, the plastic rosaries, the shoes in the wheelchair ("I'm ready to stretch out"), as dents and punctures of the flesh—those gruesome flowers—a macabre tumor, and surreal pain, changed into hallowed marble, a lens was cleared, a coffer penetrated.