LANGSTON HUGHES TRIBUTE ISSUE
THE NEW DOG MAP OF THE WORLD
On the old dog map of the world that
on the inside book jacket of Dog Stories We Love Best,
Africa is empty save the barkless basenji,
who curls his tail somewhere in the Congo,
and the southernmost Cape Jackal,
a black silhouette marked #16. In Australia
just the dingo snaps her teeth and trots out back.
But England and Wales overflow with paws
and whiskers—the terriers Airedale,
Manchester, Smooth Fox, Sealyham, Welsh
and Bedlington, bull and whippet, beagle and cocker.
From Scotland, the Dandie Dinmont, the Skye terrier,
the Cairn and West Highland white.
On this map every dogless continent holds tribesmen
who sharpen sticks to beat their enemies
and slit the throats of children. Imagining
brutality was our favorite pastime.
And the continents labeled empty of dogs
gave us room to write it, like noting
coldness in my lover’s face
so I could turn away, bitter and silent.
Oh, the white skin of the savage!
Oh, the heritage of sin!
We could make a new dog map of the world.
Flatten relief maps that bring
no peace to the agitated,
dry up those of precipitation, shred
population density, conservative-turned-liberal—
When dogs dream do they dream of these things?
If you’re discouraged, recall that Mercator
now admits his bias: remember modest Greenland bloated
to Mack truck size? The equator so low-slung
we saw a man whose trousers drag? Eurasia split
down the middle like a flattened chicken breast?
I want to be my dog, that creature of no false
pride, certain she deserved the kiss she didn’t get,
insistent on the warm hand hanging loosely
by her loved one’s side.
If I rebuff her licks, she waits
and asks again, while I—
I’m ashamed to even whisper what I need.
I don’t want to be the expatriate who squints
at the map and says, “We should have turned back there”
while the aborigine keeps driving, says at last,
“I see your map did not change when the floods
washed out the bridge last year.”
I want to see the land for what it is.
When I reach my hand out
I want it to be for the pleasure of the reaching.
Let me forget what the old guidebooks say
I should find as my reward.
On the old dog map of the world
there’s no icon for skinny mornings
in April, no way to mark the early trees
netting themselves some pale green for spring.
No description of the scores of dogs who roam every continent,
who crowd the outer edges where the paper curls and folds.
Except on the new dog map of the world.
That’s where all the honest stories are told.
Bonnie Auslander grew
up in Washington, DC, and after living in South Carolina, Germany, and
elsewhere, now makes her home in Bethesda, MD, with her husband and
two children. She has had poems published in Gargoyle,
Field, Poet Lore, and Five Fingers Review; her
radio commentaries have aired on WAMU's "Metro Connection"
and public radio's "Living On Earth." She has been awarded
fellowships at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She directs
the Kogod Center for Business Communications at American University's
Kogod School of Business.
in Volume 12, Number 1, Winter 2011.