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, which first appeared in POETRY. © The Poetry Foundation, 2002.
Reprinted by permission.
Robert Wrigley (1951- ) was born in East St. Louis, Illinois. He is the author of 11 poetry collections, including Box (2017). Wrigley teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Idaho.