I hear the dogs of Brooklyn bark.
I do not need to strain my ear.
Their varied voices fill the dark;
A Hamlet here, there soulful Lear.

What is it that these voices say?
They say they cannot smell the moon.
Their muzzles upward point and bay.
They say that Christ is coming soon.

They say that they have guarded hell
From old Cerberus to this day.
They know what noses know that smell.
They know their jaws must snap or play.

They know their master is the law;
Some sort of higher primate mind.
They lash out rude or raise a paw.
They feel the pressure from the blind.

Casually they take the street
And lift their leg, a further sack
Of values crumbling in retreat.
They say they were abandoned, Jack.

And where is heaven, one might ask?
Their long pink tongues come lolling out;
Their eyebrows arch, their bodies bask.
This is all life can be about,

These dogs of Brooklyn seem to say.
Turned loose into fair Prospect Park,
They sniff the pedigree and stray,
And seem to shrug at what they mark.

They seem to miss the broken glass;
Or does it not cut city hounds?
All things to them can stay or pass,
As long as they can make their rounds.

They all but lay the secret bare
Of civil coolness, timely heat.
They bid us join them in our hair,
Tussle with them off our feet.

There is no master, law or end.
They jerk their heads and onward lead
By leaps and bounds; around the bend
Are fields where none must curb or heed.

They pause and sniff the shifting air.
We follow them with Darwin’s brain.
They wheel and bark and, snarling, bare
Their fangs at someone, something, rain.

I hear the dogs of Brooklyn bark.
I do not need to strain my ear.
I listen, though, if what they mark
Is longing, play, or darksome fear.

In 1978 the Canine Waste Law went into
effect in New York City. Rather than deal with
the $100 fine for not curbing their dogs, many
pet owners simply abandoned their animals.
I was living in Park Slope at the time, where
the abandoned dogs congregated in Prospect
Park at night and let out mournful howls for
quite sometime afterward. This was the
inspiration for the poem.

From The Endless Evolving Trilogy – A Poem Cycle
By Hudson Owen. All Rights Reserved.