Dogs give commands to me in one syllable,
the same one again and again.
I speak back in polysyllabics
above my one great bark.
It's like my dreams falling all night
in technicolor splendor. I can't remember what.
When I open my eyes and look back
I'm just grateful I fit my body through
this space as big as a bark.
And the conversations I have with myself each day...
They're like those silver balls on poles
across which gags of burnt electricity arc.
And I'm laid out below, inert,
until my head smokes and I stagger off
with a grunt-thought, cough-out, my smashed send-off.
The same thing happened to my friend Larry
who claims he never woke up at birth.
So for $45 the holistic doctor placed a
bouillon cube on his forehead and a lump
of cheese over his heart, and Larry woke up
and coughed and coughed in dog language
and we knew to bring him water. It was a miracle!
Only we're not sure what.
I imagine that's why we have the public flasher
who is able to prepare us
for the right moment on some random day
when he'll drop the blinding light of his body
down in front of us: "Bark!"
He makes us feel exact.
My intuition tells me yes
even a stone can bark.
Only the sound it makes is millions of years long
and I'm standing in the silence and dark
between its two great phonemes of need,
going to sleep, waking up, going to sleep.
In last week’s post I mentioned Jack Myers, a greatly underappreciated poet who published over a dozen books and taught for many years at SMU and in the Vermont College MFA program. Jack passed away about a year ago. He was one of the first poets, to my mind, who mastered the post-confessional/conversational/serious-by-way-of-humor mode that many other poets subsequently have become much more famous than Jack for writing. This poem is from Jack’s National Poetry Series-winning book As Long as You’re Happy (Graywolf, 1986). Seamus Heaney, in selecting the book, called Jack’s poems “stylish in their pretence of being without style, wise in their pretence of just fooling around”; exactly so.