The Dog

The Dog by Francisco Goya
The Dog (El Perro) by Francisco Goya

He’s gone, my leader.
Turned into a bird or some other
uncatchable thing.
The world without him
tastes like a thrown stick.
I don’t know what to do.

I take a running step
& stop: there’s no tug
on my collar,
no comforting rebuke.
I keep trying to call
his name & get
the same old howl.

This week at Poetry Thursday, again the prompt was ekphrasis, but with a prosopopoeic twist: to speak from within the work of art.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).


  1. What a delightfully cruel painting, and what a voice you put into that poor mutt! I enjoyed this.


  2. Rethabile – Glad you liked it. I very much enjoyed checking out your group blog just now.

    Beaman – Thanks – much appreciated.


  3. Yeah. I had the pleasure of seeing this and many of his other paitings in the Prado when I was 12. He was one of my three favorite artists there (Velasquez and El Greco were the other two). The “black paintings” in particular made a strong impression.


  4. You got into that dog’s head and let us in, too. Neat trick.


  5. “Turned into a bird, I think.
    The world without him
    tastes like a thrown stick.” — these lines really hooked me.

    Goya and El Greco are my favorites from my time in Spain as well.


  6. 15 minutes ago, on my way home, I met a dog in the elevator. I asked the owner what the mutt’s name was. Goya, said he. Oh, said I, bean or painter. Painter.

    True story.

    15 minutes ago.


  7. Wonderful! I don’t recall this painting, which I must have seen in the Prado, but I love it – probably saw it when my tastes very different from now (well, the same in some ways, but less broad and perhaps not yet into minimalism). And your poem captures just the tone of the painting – almost too bleak to be ordinary, almost too ordinary to be bleak.


  8. pauline – I’m glad that worked for you. Thanks for the comment.

    Kimberley – I think those lines are beginning to grow on me, too. Yesterday they struck me as rather too ordinary (to use Jean’s word), but the beauty of a writing assignment is that it forces one to go ahead and post, 2nd thoughts be damned!

    Glad to hear from a fellow fan of Spanish grotesquerie.

    Teju – Damn, that’s spooky! And you an art historian, yet.

    Am I crazy, or are you experiencing an unusual number of these coincidences lately? Maybe your true destiny is to become a psychic. Better get right with Orunmila.

    Jean – Thanks. Your good opinion means a lot to me. FWIW, I started this poem early in the morning and finished it late in the afternoon, after driving and walking through a cloudless day that was anything but bleak.


  9. I love the dark spirit of this painting and your poem really conveys the cruelty of this scene from the perspective of the dog!


  10. It really works with the painting. Such loneliness in your words.


  11. Goya has always been one of my favorite painters. I was at the Prado in 1976. Need to go back. This poem of yours matches the feeling of the painting.


  12. I like everything I see here…tanks


  13. Dave,

    What a quiet, sparse, and weighted poem. I love the lines

    The world without him
    tastes like a thrown stick.




  14. Wonderfully sad… and yes, I like the “world without him” couplet too. I dunno about “turned into a bird, I think”, but I can’t come up with anything better. It does give a sense of puzzled helplessness that seems very appropriate.


  15. Hi all – Thanks for the kind comments. David, I think you’re right to finger that line as the weakest link. It doesn’t feel quite fully earned – like a dog would actually think that way.


  16. How about —

    Not down, not up, just gone

    Reminds me of commands — which is more “doglike” in my mind.

    or maybe . . .

    His scent fades fast

    To evoke the dog’s strong sense of smell?

    In any case — I like the poem.


  17. Those are good suggestions, Michelle – especially the first. I’ll try thinking along those lines and see if I can come up with something. Thanks!

    (By the way, your link doesn’t work.)


  18. I’m glad the suggestions were helpful. Sorry about the link, this is only my second week and I’m still getting the hang of how all of this works.


  19. Musings on the problem line et seq:

    He hasn’t come home in ages…

    his fading scents drift around,
    until the house smells like a thrown stick

    without him, his scent fades,
    the rake smells like a thrown stick


  20. Like that thrown stick!

    I met a dog in the elevator five minutes ago, and he told me that his master was Goya and that he tasted like bone.

    5 minutes ago.

    April Fool’s. No kidding.


  21. Captured the melancholic atmosphere of this painting and very evocative for me — thanks for writing it!


  22. MichelleL – Oh, I see — you just left out the “blogspot” part of the URL.

    It’ll get easier pretty soon. (Except for the writing part. If that gets easier, you’re probably taking short-cuts!)

    marly – :)

    Ivy – Thanks for stopping by. I’m honored, as always.

    Teju – Thanks for leaving the link.


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