What is the subject matter of the poem “The Dog in Kivulu”?

Quick answer:

The subject matter of the poem “The Dog in Kivulu” is the misery suffered by those at the bottom of the heap, be they human or animal. Both the eponymous dog and the inhabitants of the slum depicted in the poem live lives marked by suffering.

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The eponymous creature in “The Dog in Kivulu” is a creature in a truly wretched condition. “Thin, bony, and yawning,” he spends all day in this slum neighborhood, running away from fat flies, barking at naked children, and scratching his tail with his teeth. This is no kind of life for a dog or any animal.

But then the humans who inhabit this part of town aren't exactly living in paradise either. The reference to naked children clearly suggests that the people of Kivulu can't afford to clothe their kids, a pretty basic requirement that most of us in the developed world take for granted.

Then there are the rubbish heaps in which children play and where they sing a thanksgiving. It's upon leaving the mounds of rotten garbage piled up in the street that the children are barked at by the mangy mutt.

Life in Kivulu is so hard that people resort to making hooch, illegal alcohol, in order to provide themselves with a diversion from the sheer misery of their daily lives. Extreme poverty has affected everyone and everything in this neck of the woods, and even without knowing about the naked children and their impoverished parents, we could tell from the general condition of the dog what kind of lives they lead.

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