Portrait of Poet with Dog

by Betsy Sholl

      Larry Levis, 1946-1996

At first they seem so different - the man 
squatting on two legs, one arm propping his chin,
his gaze askew, wry like the face in the moon,

and the dog, black lab with white blaze,  
her look solemn and direct, as if longing 
to step out of some grave perplexity

and give voice to what furrows her brow. 
A maple leaf lies at her feet, so shaped
it could have fallen from her chest.

On the man’s other side, a motorcycle leans, 
its front wheel turned so the gauges show, 
the side mirror tilting like a thought poised 

above his head.  In the background: blurred 
tree trunk, door with unreadable numbers,
a tangle of shrubs like a woman’s sprayed hair

still stiff, though mussed by a lover all night. 
No woman here now.  Just the dog, the bike.
On one side of the man, patience,

on the other, speed.  A downward slant 
pulls the whole composition, left to right, 
mirror to man, to dog’s earnest eyes,   

white blaze and fallen leaf.  How long 
before the man’s knees ache to stand, 
before he takes that mute animal gaze

out for a ride, motor between his legs,
small mirror framing the world he is 
each moment and forever leaving behind? 



From 2006 to 2011, Betsy Sholl served as Poet Laureate of Maine, a five-year position named by the governor. “The Poet Laureate is an honor bestowed upon a person whose work is nationally recognized and of exceptional quality. For more information about the Poet Laureate, please visit www.mainearts.com (Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance).”

Back to the Issue