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There is nothing disingenuous about the way a dog praises, celebrates, frets or mourns. In this poem David Baker gives us just such an endearing mutt.

Mongrel Heart

Up the dog bounds to the window, baying

like a basset his doleful, tearing sounds

from the belly, as if mourning a dead king,

and now he's howling like a beagle — yips, brays,

gagging growls — and scratching the sill paintless,

that's how much he's missed you, the two of you,

both of you, mother and daughter, my wife

and child. All week he's curled at my feet,

warming himself and me watching more TV,

or wandered the lonely rooms, my dog shadow,

who like a poodle now hops, amped-up windup

maniac yo-yo with matted curls and snot nose

smearing the panes, having heard another car

like yours taking its grinding turn down

our block, or a school bus, or bird-squawk,

that's how much he's missed you, good dog,

companion dog, dog-of-all-types, most excellent dog

I told you once and for all we should never get.


Reprinted from The Southeast Review, Vol. 23, No. 2, 2005, by permission of the author, whose newest book of poetry is Midwest Eclogue, W. W. Norton (2005). Copyright 2005 by David Baker.

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