Howard Nemerov (1920-1991) was an American poet. In 1978, he won the National Book Award for Poetry, the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and the Bollingen Prize for his collection, The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov. Nemerov served as poetry consultant to the Library of Congress in 1963 and 1964, as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets beginning in 1976, and for two terms as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1988 to 1990. There seemed to be no subject too large or too small, too extraordinary or too everyday, for him to tackle with his pen.
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Walking the Dog
by Howard Nemerov
Two universes mosey down the street
Connected by love and a leash and nothing else.
Mostly I look at lamplight through the leaves
While he mooches along with tail up and snout down,
Getting a secret knowledge through the nose
Almost entirely hidden from my sight.
We stand while he’s enraptured by a bush
Till I can’t stand our standing any more
And haul him off; for our relationship
Is patience balancing to this side tug
And that side drag; a pair of symbionts
Contented not to think each other’s thoughts.
What else we have in common’s what he taught,
Our interest in shit. We know its every state
From steaming fresh through stink to nature’s way
Of sluicing it to dust that blows away.
We move along the street inspecting it.
His sense of it is keener far than mine,
And only when he finds the place precise
He signifies by sniffing urgently
And circles thrice about, and squats, and shits,
Whereon we both with dignity walk home
And just to show who’s master I write the poem.
“Walking the Dog” from Trying Conclusions: New and Selected Poems 1961-1991, © 1991 by Howard Nemerov – University of Chicago Press