By Mark Doty
Fetch? Balls and sticks capture my attention
seconds at a time. Catch? I don’t think so.
Bunny, tumbling leaf, a squirrel who’s—oh
joy—actually scared. Sniff the wind, then
I’m off again: muck, pond, ditch, residue
of any thrillingly dead thing. And you?
Either you’re sunk in the past, half our walk,
thinking of what you never can bring back,
or else you’re off in some fog concerning
—tomorrow, is that what you call it? My work:
to unsnare time’s warp (and woof!), retrieving,
my haze-headed friend, you. This shining bark,
a Zen master’s bronzy gong, calls you here,
entirely, now: bow-wow, bow-wow, bow-wow.
Mark Doty, “Golden Retrievals” from Sweet Machine: Poems. Copyright © 1998 by Mark Doty. Reprinted with the permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
Source: Sweet Machine: Poems (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1998)
Mark Doty was born in Tennessee but grew up in the American Southwest—an upbringing vividly rendered in his extraordinary 1999 autobiography Firebird. His first book of poems appeared in 1987, but it was his third, My Alexandria (1993), which brought him wide acclaim, showcasing a brilliant style and elegiac sensibility similar to those of Elizabeth Bishop. His meticulous descriptions poignantly convey the transitory beauty of life and love.
More By This Poet
Brian Age Seven
Grateful for their tour
of the pharmacy,
the first-grade class
has drawn these pictures,
each self-portrait taped
to the window-glass,
faces wide to the street,
round and available,
with parallel lines for hair.
I like this one best: Brian,
whose attenuated name
fills a quarter of the frame,
stretched beside impossible
A Display of Mackerel
They lie in parallel rows,
on ice, head to tail,
each a foot of luminosity
barred with black bands,
which divide the scales’
like seams of lead
in a Tiffany window.
prismatics: think abalone,
the wildly rainbowed
mirror of a soapbubble sphere,
think sun on gasoline.
Splendor, and splendor,
More Poems about Relationships
Back Up Quick They’re Hippies
That was the year we drove
into the commune in Cornwall.
“Jesus Jim,” mam said,
“back up quick they’re hippies.”
Through the car window,
tents, row after row, flaps open,
long-haired men and women
curled around each other like babies
and the babies themselves
wandered naked across the grass.
In the warmth of night I put feet to my plan: waited
for my brothers to sleep. They’d spent the day
sharpening their hooks, repairing the great net,
filling gourds with fresh water. They’d bundled
taro wrapped in leaves sitting below the cross seats.