Poem: “Anthropology”

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The large dog sprawls in the road, remembering
his younger triumph over passing cars.
Here comes one now; it swerves, blares its horn,
and his litter-mate, a smaller quicker dog
trolling the suspect mole, slinks to the porch.
This fails to shame, or teach, or galvanize,
since he would rather be envied than admired –
he holds the road as lion would his rock,
walrus his floe.
     ¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿ I knock on the window pane;
he looks toward me, then turns his thick neck back
to look at the road. I knock again; he looks
AT me, then heaves his body up, strolls
to the house with plausible irony: he’s not
accountable, who woos whatever traffic
sidles past; whose sleep is comatose
and not disturbed, like hers, by the tic of the hunt;

whose head happens to reach to the willing hand¿

my hand rubbing his crown, her currying tongue,
all of it costs him nothing. His one job?
To wag his tail when the Alpha Male comes home.
Meanwhile his busy sister patrols the yard,
chases after thunder out in the field,
bites mid-air in winter the snow-detritus
shuffling from the eaves–she knows she’s a dog,
knows what dogs do:
¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿             hope to please, and plunge.

Ellen Bryant Voigt of Cabot is Vermont’s Poet Laureate.

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