American Life in Poetry: Column 139


Man’s best friend is, of course, woman’s best friend, too. The Illinois poet, Bruce Guernsey, offers us this snapshot of a mutually agreed upon dependency that leads to a domestic communion.

The Lady and the Tramp

As my mother’s memory dims   
she’s losing her sense of smell   
and can’t remember the toast   
blackening the kitchen with smoke   
or sniff how nasty the breath of the dog   
that follows her yet from room to room,   
unable, himself, to hear his own bark.   

It’s thus they get around,   
the wheezing old hound stone deaf   
baying like a smoke alarm   
for his amnesiac mistress whose back   
from petting him is bent forever   
as they shuffle towards the flaming toaster   
and split the cindered crisp that’s left.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2007 by Bruce Guernsey, whose newest book, New England Primer, was published by Cherry Grove Collections (WordTech Communications) in 2008. Poem reprinted from Spoon River Poetry Review, Vol. XXVI, no. 2, by permission of the author. Introduction copyright © 2019 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.