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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)

Poet Bio

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.

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