David Hadbawnik
from About a Dog: The Doggie Monologues and Some Poems

When I make bold to lick myself in the presence of thine enemies – for they are, though you do not
know it yet, thine enemies – I am not unlike a rock star, or an athlete performing with the utmost
concentration before the enormous crowd; yet banishing them from my mind, all thoughts of vanity,
all consciousness that anyone is looking at all, that any possible fault or failing might attach to my
performance; I am as though alone, free to make mistakes, to lick where I will, here for example, on
this rug in the middle of the floor; and every time I am right, every time the performance comes off,
every time they barely look up, even as they secretly watch with tilted eyes. For I am doing, just as the
athlete or rock star, exactly what they wish they could do at this moment; I have as any great
performer intuited the secret desire of the crowd, which is its fear; as if their separate fears had
accumulated and crested like a wave which I ride out, giving full expression to, foaming and crashing
on the rocks in a satisfying spray.

Yes, who among you has not wished to, once, strip off clothes and claw, scratch – but that is beside
the point. This performance, even this one here, is for your benefit. Though in order to do it you
must be completely put out of mind – or I must make you complicit, must make the failure, if such
there be, yours as well; as a team on the field only succeeds through love, moving through a field of
love, so that every slip is a slip caused by all of them, and there be no slip but a failure of love. The
ball between the legs, the dropped fly, the whiff, the clang, the missed tag – a failure of love. So often
it happens, and the crowd feels it too; a sigh goes up from them, as if their own love at that moment
felt a little less true. The love among all of them, already fragile, easily dissipating into the evening air.
But their own personal love, what they know is true, what they feel and know in their hearts always
without question; even that feels less true, less stable, when the love they had seen before their eyes,
the sudden miracle among men, this very model of perfect, delicate love, just as suddenly collapses.
And they begin to doubt, a deep bitterness takes root in their souls, they grumble and feel foolish and
know not why—

I know, and I do my best to hold that faith, that love, that always courses between them, though it is
also the fear that holds them so firmly in place.


Everyone in this room, roaming about free, crawling over each other, sniffing, licking, biting,
themselves and each other, the men quickly establishing dominance with an easy hump, getting that
out of the way so they can play with each other, the women waiting to be sniffed, sniffing each other,
all pausing easily to scratch or lick and thus keeping constantly clean and comfortable, the couch, the
rug, the chair, the legs of the table, the floor, the cabinet, each other’s legs, tongues, assholes, bellies,
ears, eyes, hands, feet, smalls of backs, intimately and instantly known to each other always from this
moment forward in innocent endless grace.

The Smile
after Thomas Wyatt

There never was smile half so well smiled
to smile a smile of such good intent
as I became a smiling instrument
to reflect yours, once you were beguiled.
These sharp long teeth, the look of the wild
that twinkles in eyes that can’t repent
of where the old soul’s ancient youth was spent
in cave and wood, far from any mild
pursuits; but in the keen-scented chase
I ran, where all contained in that strange
distance the world was, within the range
of my quarry, and from its frightened face
once I had tracked it down in morning dew,
I plucked the smile I offer now to you.

return to SHAMPOO 21