Lyrical, by Joseph Millar

The spaniel next door yaps at the sparrows,
he yaps at the crows and the mailman,
yaps at the compost pile and the sunflower,
yaps at the rain and the sky. He yaps
at the steps leading down to the creek
where the flax plants bloom high as my waist
and the blue flowers force their way up
through small stones the color of night. He
yaps at the garbage truck’s back-up beeper,
iron bell song of the priest and bridegroom,
song of the lone ship, song of the train,
song of the big waves rolling and breaking
over the western reefs. He yaps at the rosebush,
yaps at the fence, song for the sidewalk cracked
in half, the wine bottle resting against the curb,
the neighbor who doesn’t come home.


i liked this poem initially because i thought the subject matter was rather funny; everyone has been around a dog who barks at literally everything. also, the title “Lyrical” was initially funny as well, as most people wouldn’t necessarily think of a dog’s bark as having any “Lyrical” qualities. however, but the end of the poem, Millar breaks the pattern of “Yaps at…” and refers to the sound as “song” and then brings in the idea of a neighbor who has not come home. i was struck by the ambiguity, and rather serious nature of this last line when compared to the rest of the poem, which to that point, felt rather light-hearted. in an untraditional sort of way, assuming there is a neighbor who is missing, a dog’s bark could to some degree be seen as an elegy, or lyrical somehow. i also thought the ambiguous nature of the last line was intriguing and thought-provoking.

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