Slightly Off Center: April 2014
A Dog’s “Howl,” with apologies to Allen Ginsberg.
—by Dennis Hinkamp
I find exercise, especially bike riding, to be an excruciating use of time that is sometimes compressed to a fast spinning clock and other times seemingly lasting longer than a retirement planning seminar. To break the monotony lately I have been noticing dogs and rewriting the famous Beat anthems such as Howl and On the Road in my head. Hey, it is no crazier than anything Lance Armstrong has done. I only offer my apologies to all the liberal arts majors who will hate this, and all the science majors whom I lost in the last sentence.
I saw the best dogs of my generation destroyed by madness, puppy mills breeding cash instead of loyal pets some not fixed,
The dogs that we love, the dogs that compensate for our withered souls,
Hipster French Bulldogs in tight sweaters and
Meaty Mastiffs and Rottweilers dragging muscled masters in an offbeat synchronicity,
Poodles and Doodles, Puggles, Goldendoodles and all manner of mishmash machinations of the myriad of the canine genome,
They howl in horror.
Dogs! whose genetic code we have molded to resemble our best imagined selves,
Dogs! Grey-muzzled minis angry beyond their stature,
Dogs! Lazy labs laying flat in the sun; solar soaking by expanding their surface area,
Tiny nippers longing to be large,
White-socked boxers with pouting faces,
Shaggy slobbering behemoths longing to be
lap dogs, Slave-to-their-noses beagle dogs chasing unseen scents,
Agile farm dogs clinging to the backs of trucks with their un-cloven feet,
Wiener dogs walked by old men on 8th West,
Imperial walker Dane dogs so great they can steal
cupcakes from the tops of refrigerators,
Mixed breeds ready to fetch with no one to throw and herders without a herd to herd.
I felt their spirits but kept riding.
I saw the wind-blown jowly dog faces out the
window of mini vans,
I saw packs of pugs snorting their way down the
sidewalks wriggling through their wrinkled bodies,
I stopped but still dreamt of dogs that sniff out drugs and bombs and crotches,
Robert Wegman weimaraners picture-perfect in
Non-descript chain-pulling mixed breeds who long
to get loose and chase me in my nightmares,
Hanna Barbera-imagined dogs like Scooby,
Astro and Dino.
I dream of dogs that have more fun than us and sleep better too,
They are the silent souls that we have lost; the shaggy ciphers that save us from our Sisyphean existence.
For this, we thank you.
Allen Ginsberg began writing Howl, “the poem that changed America,” 60 years ago. Ginsberg died April 5, 1997 at age 71. Dennis Hinkamp’s love of dogs occasionally drives him to extremes