The Dog Wants His Dinner


From the Archive

From the first-edition jacket of The Crystal Lithium.

“The Dog Wants His Dinner,” a poem by James Schuyler, first appeared in our Winter 1972 issue; it’s part of his collection The Crystal Lithium. Schuyler was born on this day in 1923. He died in 1991. 

for Clark Coolidge

The sky is pitiless. I beg
your pardon? OK then
the sky is pitted. The yard
is sand and laced with roots
afloat on rock encasing fire.
You think so do you. No.
Yes. Don’t know. Check one.
Forget all you ever knew.
Sorry. Not my romance. What
is? Sorry. We don’t take
in trick questions. You mean?
I do: put down that.
Put that down too. Skies
of spit, seas where whales
piss and die to make a bar
of scented soap, uhm smells
good. She came in like an ex-
cited headline. The deer
they all were starving! To
death, even, perhaps. And
eating people! What to do
with these disordered herds
of words? I said I would
eat my words and do so, now
you see. He eats them, all
up. Greedily. Yesterday the
air was squeaky clean today
it’s dull and lifeless as an
addict’s armpit. Surely you
mean leafless. I have a flea
bite, here, pink, of course
as an eye disease: the cat
who brings me fleas dies
like a dog, sleepily, or
an unwatered plant. That
was exciting wasn’t it. It’s
not that I crave. Uh did
you say crave? Some words
are briefly worse than others:
get the Librium gun and point
it and the Kodak at that Kodiak.
You see? No hope. So don’t
hope. Hop, skip, jump or
lie down. Feed your face.
Now feed the dog. He ate his.
He is eating the cat who
objects. Fix the fire. Put
out the light. An ice cold
hand slides in the window
to touch your uncovered head
forehead cheeks lips lobes
and all with worlds of fire
chilled by distance. O night.
Bedclothes loosen. Unseen twigs
erect themselves in air. You
asleep too, O magic root.