By the Same Author

By James Longenbach James Longenbach
Today, no matter if it rains,
It’s time to follow the path into the forest.

The same people will be walking the same dogs,
Or if not the same dogs, dogs that behave in similar fashions,
Some barking, some standing aloof.
The owners carry plastic bags.

But this is the forest, they complain, we must do as we like.
We must let the dogs run free,
We must follow their example,
The way we did when we were young.

Back then we slept, watched TV
We were the dogs.
By the time the screen door slammed, we were gone.

Nobody really talks like that in the forest.
They’re proud of their dogs,
Proud especially of the ones who never bark.
They’re upset about the Norway maple, it’s everywhere,
Crowding out the hickories and oaks.

Did you know it takes a million seeds to make one tree?
Your chances of surviving in the forest,
Of replicating yourself, are slim.

Today, the smaller dogs are wearing raincoats,
The bigger ones are stiffing it out.
They’re tense, preoccupied,
Running in circles,
Getting tangled in the leash—

It’s hard remaining human in the forest.
To move the limbs of the body,
To speak intelligible words,
These things promise change.

Source: Poetry (September 2012).

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This poem originally appeared in the September 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

September 2012
 James  Longenbach

Biography

A poet as well as an influential literary critic and a professor of English at the University of Rochester, James Longenbach writes primarily on modernist and contemporary poetry. He is the author of the critical works Stone Cottage: Pound, Yeats, and Modernism (1988), Wallace Stevens: The Plain Sense of Things (1991), Modern Poetry After Modernism (1997), The Resistance to Poetry (2004), The Art of the Poetic Line (2008), and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Life Choices, The Mind, Relationships, Pets, Nature, Animals

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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