Doggie Style

Queer poets and artists salute their significant canines.

One of the gay community's least recognized constituencies is those for whom the phrase "significant other" is as likely to conjure images of Chihuahuas, Great Danes, and boxers as thoughts of human companions. "I am I because my little dog knows me," wrote Gertrude Stein in "Identity A Poem," reimagining the underpinnings of (lesbian) identity eons ahead of her time. In "Talking to Dogs," W. H. Auden concluded that what ultimately bonds human and dog together is a shared "sense of theatre." ââ Why do gay men and lesbians have so much to say on the subject of dogs? Perhaps because we're masters at reconfiguring what it means to create family, to be animal and living in skin, and to exist in a state of exuberant, unapologetic disobedience. Perhaps it's because dogs, like queers, speak their minds and are utterly and precisely themselves. It's probably also got something to do with our mutual love of a good time, our impulse toward sexual liberation, and our insistence on forming intimate bonds with whomever we see fit. ââ The poems in these pages have been selected from Queer Dog: Homo/Pup/Poetry (Cleis Press, 1997). They run the gamut from serious, tender, vicious, to sexy, rabid, and raw—like dogs themselves, and, for that matter, the lesbians and gay men who love them.

Gerry Gomez Pearlberg, Editor, Queer Dog

in dreams you come to me
by Fran Winant

There are dark lines around your eyes, drawn as if to accent your beauty.
In dreams, you come to me
as a woman I have just met.
We love each other at first sight.
The white of your dog-chest
has become a white blouse.
The black of your dog-back
has become a black suit.
You have long, dark human hair now,
swept around your head,
arms instead of paws.
We're the same height now,
just as we are when you dog-leap
onto my chest,
and we're mouth to mouth,
as we have often been.
More comfortable to embrace
now that we're both the same species.
There's electricity between us.
Our closeness must be expressed
quickly,
before the dream ends
and we resume our usual places,
I at my desk,
you on the floor.


from ATLANTIS
by Mark Doty

1. Faith
"I've been having these
awful dreams, each a little different,
though the core's the same—

we're walking in a field,
Wally and Arden and I, a stretch of grass
with a highway running beside it,

or a path in the woods that opens
onto a road. Everything's fine,
then the dog sprints ahead of us,

excited; we're calling but
he's racing down a scent and doesn't hear us,
and that's when he goes

onto the highway. I don't want to describe it.
Sometimes it's brutal and over,
and others he's struck and takes off

so we don't know where he is
or how bad. This wakes me
every night now, and I stay awake;

I'm afraid if I sleep I'll go back
into the dream. It's been six months,
almost exactly, since the doctor wrote

not even a real word
but an acronym, a vacant
four-letter cipher

that draws meanings into itself,
reconstitutes the world.
We tried to say it was just

a word; we tried to admit
it had power and thus to nullify it
by means of our acknowledgment.

I know the current wisdom:
bright hope, the power of wishing you're well.
He's just so tired, though nothing

shows in any tests, Nothing,
the doctor says, detectable;
the doctor doesn't hear what I do,

that trickling, steadily rising nothing
that makes him sleep all day,
vanish into fever's tranced afternoons,

and I swear sometimes
when I put my head to his chest
I can hear the virus humming

like a refrigerator.
Which is what makes me think
you can take your positive attitude

and go straight to hell.
We don't have a future,
we have a dog.
Who is he?

Soul without speech,
sheer, tireless faith,
he is that-which-goes-forward,

black muzzle, black paws,
scouting what's ahead;
he is where we'll be hit first,

he's the part of us
that's going to get it.
I'm hardly awake on our morning walk

—always just me and Arden now—
and sometimes I am still
in the thrall of the dream,

which is why, when he took a step
onto Commercial
before I'd looked both ways,
I screamed his name and grabbed his collar.

And there I was on my knees,
both arms around his neck
and nothing coming,

and when I looked into that bewildered face
I realized I didn't know what it was
I was shouting at,

I didn't know who I was trying to protect."


HYENA
by Jan Freeman

The hyena has a happy heart:
hearts, hearts, many hearts.
The hyena has a happy heart.
At noon she seeks them,
at dusk she finds them,
at night she grabs them, bleeds them,
eats them.
The hyena grins at the scent of a lame one,
one in mourning, one in pain, one
barely breathing:
weak ones! weak ones!
Sometimes they fold themselves
into her jaws;
mama, they cry.
She swallows the flesh.
She loves the blood, the silky gestures and
the scrub,
the matted hair, each forlorn whimper.
So what if the lions hate her.

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