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Do You Love Me?

She's twelve and she's asking the dog,
who does, but who speaks
in tongues, whose feints and gyrations
are themselves parts of speech.

They're on the back porch
and I don't really mean to be taking this in
but once I've heard I can't stop listening. Again
and again she asks, and the good dog

sits and wiggles, leaps and licks.
Imagine never asking. Imagine why:
so sure you wouldn't dare, or couldn't care
less. I wonder if the dog's guileless brown eyes

can lie, if the perfect canine lack of abstractions
might not be a bit like the picture books
she "read" as a child, before her parents' lips
shaped the daily miracle of speech

and kisses, and the words were not lead
and weighed only air, and did not mean
so meanly. "Do you love me?" she says
and says, until the dog, sensing perhaps

its own awful speechlessness, tries to bolt,
but she holds it by the collar and will not
let go, until, having come closer,
I hear the rest of it. I hear it all.

She's got the dog's furry jowls in her hands,
she's speaking precisely
into its laid-back, quivering ears:
"Say it," she hisses, "say it to me."

—Robert Wrigley

"Do You Love Me?" by Robert Wrigley

from Earthly Meditations: New and Selected Poems first appeared in POETRY. © The Poetry Foundation, 2002.

Reprinted by permission of University of North Texas Press from Soul Data. Copyright 1998 by Mark Svenvold. For further permissions information, contact University of North Texas Press, ATTN: Permissions, P.O. Box 311336, Denton, TX 76205,

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Robert Wrigley (1951- ) was born in East St. Louis, Illinois. He was drafted in 1971, but was discharged as a conscientious objector. The first in his family to graduate from college, and the first male for generations to escape work in a coal mine, Wrigley earned his MFA from the University of Montana, where he studied with Madeline DeFrees, John Haines, and Richard Hugo. Wrigley believes that poetry can influence the world and people’s lives rather than just reside within the confines of academia. He holds that “poetry can have a redemptive function. It can look at the chaos you see and make a kind of sense of the smallest part of it.” His poems are concerned with rural Western landscapes and humankind’s place within the natural world, and he aims to “tell all the truth, but make it sing.” 

Learn more about Robert Wrigleyat The Poetry Foundation.