“Dog” is composed in free verse, a style that can preserve the blunt effect of common speech. Without either “a” or “the” preceding it, the word “dog” has a linguistically rudimentary quality that is in keeping with the poem’s subject. “Dog” also spells “god” backward and thus anticipates one of the central concerns of the poem.
The poem begins with the dog of its title demonstrating that the canine is the measure of all things in its world. The first eighteen lines catalog the drunks, moons, fish, ants, and chickens that are the large and small of “his reality.” They show too the delightful naïveté of the dog’s view: Streetlights are “moons on trees”; fish lie on newsprint for no apparent reason; ants emerge mysteriously from holes; chickens’ bodies are for sale in one place, and their strangely dislocated heads appear elsewhere, consigned, presumably, to the garbage. The dog’s own qualities permeate all of his experience, measure it all, so that “the things he smells/ smell something like himself.”
With the third occurrence of the line “The dog trots freely in the street,” the catalog of perceptions continues, but the most noteworthy feature of lines 19 to 30 is the dog’s standard of value. As the dog continues to trot through the urban scene, cows and policemen appear. Only the sides of beef, however, are of “use,” since the dog can eat them. Policemen are inedible, but in the...
(The entire section is 551 words.)