The Dog

by Jeffrey Burghauser (April 2024)

High Life —by Edwin Landseer, 1829


Or let my lamp at midnight hour
Be seen in some high lonely tower…
…Where more is meant than meets the ear. —John Milton, Il Penseroso

Books are a load of crap. —Philip Larkin, A Study of Reading Habits

If you see Herb and Dorothy [Vogel] in action, they look. He comes in, and he points at the art like a hound. He’s like those dogs that dig underneath for truffles or the treasure they’re looking for. And his eyes become intense. —Lucio Pozzi, in Herb and Dorothy (2008), dir. Megumi Sasaki


I leash the dog. As thick, revolver-blue
___Steam numbly rises from behind a heap
Of rotting railroad ties, we wander through
___A frosted neighborhood that’s still asleep.

A dog experiences life through smell.
___The sundry scents they leave and those they sniff
Are like the letters that we use to spell:
___Each turd must constitute a hieroglyph.

His chestnut-colored face grows Saturnine
___As some appliance in his body plaits
The feces; arching his elastic spine,
___My canine squire calmly defecates.

If there’s another doggie in the group,
___A kindred temperament, it sniffs with bliss
And riveted attention as the poop
___Emerges from the pooper’s orifice.

The pooper’s poop—the sniffer’s stern Amen—
___The shared, conflicted ardor, half-berserk:
Where have I seen it? Ah! I’ve seen it when
___A poet shows another one his work.

And since I hate to see a poem wrecked
___(Regardless if it be upon the ground
Or on a notebook page), I don’t collect
___His crap—at least when nobody’s around.

And if I fear a doorbell cam is primed
___For digital surveillance of the spot,
I’ll briefly bend my body in a mimed
___Facsimile of Doing-What-I-Ought.

Where churches worship in a major key
___And an un-soil-able vinyl fence
Surrounds most yards, my insolence must be
___The closest thing there is to Decadence.

My dog is also decadent (…that mad
___Intelligence distinguishing the mood
Those eyes disclose!), but never at the sad
___Expense of scholarly exactitude.

Engaging nose, along with tongue & ears,
___The dog’s attentions passionately grip
The cultivated verses of his peers
___And those of his own able authorship.

Whenever crossing grass, his head is bent
___As if he’s following a piece of prose;
But when he crosses blacktop or cement,
___He lifts his suddenly-inactive nose.

Is pavement blank?—no more so than the doors
___And corkboard-covered walls (“Sign Up for Free
Assistance With…”; “Do You Love Dinosaurs?”)
___Of our local Public Library,

Attired in those printed symbols that
___My very literacy overlooks,
Reducing all the letters to a flat
___Design I pass enroute to Proper Books.

Or let my lamp at midnight,” Milton wrote,
___Be seen in some high, lonely tower,” caught
Within the sympathy of that remote,
___Momentous coziness of Higher Thought,

A sphere of ivory, a bourbon rose,
___Whose atmosphere becalms, inviting us
Where more is meant than meets the ear.” Or nose.
___The Midnight Oil is conspicuous.

My giddy dog is a professor: his
___Condition indicates a dire split,
An ultimatum: either feces is
___Poetical, or poetry is shit.


Table of Contents


Jeffrey Burghauser is a teacher in Columbus, Ohio. He was educated at SUNY-Buffalo and the University of Leeds. He currently studies the five-string banjo with a focus on pre-WWII picking styles. A former artist-in-residence at the Arad Arts Project (Israel), his poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in Appalachian Journal, Fearsome Critters, Iceview, Lehrhaus, and New English Review. Jeffrey’s book-length collections are available on Amazon, and his website is

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast


3 Responses

  1. “Vanity is a mark of humility rather than of pride.”—Swift

    A fine analogy!
    But isn’t it fair to say
    That though all crap may be doggie poetry
    Not all poetry is crap?
    Some few enjoy producing it,
    Most couldn’t give a ****!

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