Friday, January 18, 2013

Walking the Dog - Howard Nemerov

Two universes mosey down the street
Connected by love and a leash and nothing else.
Mostly I look at lamplight through the leaves
While he mooches along with tail up and snout down,
Getting a secret knowledge through the nose
Almost entirely hidden from my sight.

We stand while he's enraptured by a bush
Till I can't stand our standing any more
And haul him off; for our relationship
Is patience balancing to this side tug
And that side drag; a pair of symbionts
Contented not to think each other's thoughts.

What else we have in common's what he taught,
Our interest in shit.  We know its every state
From steaming fresh through stink to nature's way
Of sluicing it to dust that blows away.
We move along the street inspecting it.

His sense of it is keener far than mine,
And only when he finds the place precise
He signifies by sniffing urgently
And circles thrice about, and squats, and shits,
Whereon we both with dignity walk home
And just to show who's master I write the poem.

I laughed aloud at the last line of this poem, and I hope you did too.  For anyone who has ever owned a dog, I'm sure this will bring many memories, hopefully fond, of walks with one's dog.  For me, I'm suddenly flooded with fond memories of Clark, my late beloved black lab.  The funny way that dogs take walks, sniffing everything, shit included, and by some byzantine and foreign process, deciding where to drop their own information rich load of shit.

I'm also somewhat enamored with the way this poem treats shit.  It's mundane.  Shit is everywhere.  You shit, I shit, and reading it in a poem, the word shit almost seems taboo, or naughty and verboten.  It's good to see someone figuratively throw shit around.  Refreshing, even.  As Nemerov reminds us, our shit philosophy is superior to the dog shit philosophy because we write poems about it.  That's funny shit, right there.

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