“Do You Love Me?” by Robert Wrigley
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
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."
"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, www.unt.edu/untpress
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.