Home
Stories & Lit
Print|Email|Text Size: ||
The Great Unwashed
Poem

My golden retriever, four years old,
has not yet learned to swim.
He is standing chest-deep

on the edge of a green, rippling
pool on the West Fork of Cold Spring.
The sandstone floor of the pool

slopes into the deep end, but he stays
rooted in the shallows, even though
an encouraging lifeguard stands by

in the person of his patient owner.
Come on, I say. Fetch! I say.
The stick floats in a sparkling eddy,

and my dog stares as if at the current
prom queen whose hair is coming
unpinned in moist tendrils

down her neck, an elusive girl
so far beyond his mud-stained nose
he dare not ask her to dance.

What does one do with a sin-bedraggled
high church dog who shrinks
from the rite of total immersion?

What can be said to convict
him of the rigid error of his ways?
It is a time, alas, to preach tolerance—

respect, even—for dogs who know
their chosen limits, who refuse
to get in over their heads.

Print|Email
This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 77: Spring 2014

Paul Willis is a professor of English at Westmont College and served as a poet laureate for Santa Barbara, Calif. His most recent book of poems is Say This Prayer into the Past (Cascade Books, 2013).

CommentsPost a Comment
Please note comments are moderated. After being approved your comment will appear below.

More From The Bark

By
John L. Shepherd
Illustration of homes
By
Susannah Charleson
The New Yorkers
By
Cathleen Schine
More in Stories & Lit:
Tula
Walking with Misty
My Dog Murphy
How I Found My Dog Carson
Healing Fraught History of African Americans and Dogs
My Canine Co-Counselor
Canis Mythicus
This Hound
Dog + Baby Love