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Doggie Style

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.

 


YOKO
by Thom Gunn

All today I lie in the bottom of the wardrobe
feeling low but sometimes getting up
to moodily lumber across rooms
and lap from the toilet bowl, it is so sultry
and then I hear the noise of firecrackers again
all New York is jaggedy with firecrackers today
and I go back to the wardrobe gloomy
trying to void my mind of them.
I am confused, I feel loose and unfitted.

At last deep in the stairwell I hear a tread,
it is him, my leader, my love.
I run to the door and listen to his approach.
Now I can smell him, what a good man he is,
I love it when he has the sweat of work on him,
as he enters I yodel with happiness,
I throw my body up against his, I try to lick
his lips,
I care about him more than anything.

After we eat we go for a walk to the piers.
I leap into the standing warmth, I plunge into
the combination of old and new smells.
Here on a garbage can at the bottom, so
interesting,
what sister or brother I wonder left this
message I sniff.
I too piss there, and go on.
Here a hydrant there a pole
here's a smell I left yesterday, well that's
disappointing
but I piss there anyway, and go on.

I investigate so much that in the end
it is for form's sake only, only a drop comes out.

I investigate tar and rotten sandwiches,
everything, and go on.

And here a dried old turd, so interesting
so old, so dry, yet so subtle and mellow.
I can place it finely, I really appreciate it,
a gold distant smell like packed autumn leaves
in winter
reminding me how what is rich and fierce
when excreted
becomes weathered and mild
but always interesting
and reminding me of what I have to do.

My leader looks on and expresses his approval.

I sniff it well and later I sniff the air well
a wind is meeting us after the close July day
rain is getting near too but first the wind.

Joy, joy,
being outside with you, active, investigating
it all,
with bowels emptied, feeling your approval
and then running on, the big fleet Yoko,
my body in its excellent black coat never
lets me down,
returning to you (as I always will, you know that)
and now
filling myself out with myself, no
longer confused,
my panting pushing apart my black lips,
but unmoving,
I stand with you braced against the wind.


REQUIEM
by Terry Wolverton

It is a sunny winter morning and I am
struggling with you
to carry—up your steep hillside—
the frozen body
of your dog.

Your first dog, Pencil, the good dog, the lady.
Who would sit with her front paws crossed,
so dainty.
Who was often seen with a dog food can stuck
on the end of her nose.
Who would press her face against your thigh
and rest there
for as long as you let her.

Sunday she was playing with young girls in
the laundromat.
Today she is dead and frozen like a popsicle and we are
trying to avoid your landlord as we
trudge upward
with her stiff heavy carcass.

You tell me, "Pencil is still with me, but you
are gone."
I don't feel gone, with this cold weight in my arms.
I have held you all night long, trying to
make myself
more real to you than death. We have
been failing
for a long time.

We at last reach the top, lower her body into
the dirt.
You will spend the day digging. I advise you
to let the other dogs
see her, so they will stop searching for her.
You disconnect your phone. Days pass. Though I hear you
screaming at me in my dreams, I do not return
to your hillside
where Pencil lies deep in the earth.


GAY DOG
by Mark Bibbins

I saw it one day as I was walking by,
displayed in an obscure sun-bleached corner of
the window of an adult video store
on Eighth Avenue.

 

Light and time had worked together to nearly
obliterate the sordid images on
the cardboard boxes showing the usual
array of nude forms,

but the most decidedly unusual
may also be had by the more intrepid
connoisseurs of pornographic videos
who frequent the store.

The video of which I speak is called Gay
Dog. Its title character is a German
Shepherd with a predilection for licking
his master's penis,

as the cover photograph would indicate.
To help the canine get into character,
the aforementioned member looks like it is
covered with chocolate

pudding. (This particular actor belongs
to both the obedience and method schools.)
It seems rather unfair to deceive man's best
friend in such a way.

That this would have an audience speaks volumes
about our own species; being no stranger
to the tricks which some men will employ just to
have someone lick them.

I can empathize with this fellating pooch.
Now, let us raise the stakes, and, in so doing,
vindicate our animal friends. I propose
a sequel to this
questionable movie, one which I would most
gladly be among the first in line to buy.
I have already devised the plot and a
fine title: Gay Shark.


VIRGIL'S VILLANELLE
by Timothy Gerken

for robert

You told me to lie on my bed on the floor
then left me for eight days.
Though to me it seemed longer.

In circles I turned and turned
searching for a way
to lie on my bed on the floor,
and keep an eye on the door.
When John came we walked and played
for hours, though it seemed longer.

I knew you hadn't gone to the store,
but for an endless hospital stay
while I waited for you on the floor.

Each time the elevator door
opened, I'd bark and bay
hoping that it wouldn't be any longer,

that you'd be home before
the end of the day,
and we'd be in your bed off the floor.

We'd lie together with my paw
on your chest and stay
until morning, though it would seem longer.
When you came home just a little stronger
and I nosed and rubbed my favorite odor
you lay down on my bed on the floor
for an hour, though to me it seemed longer.


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