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  • Writer's pictureEric

Nobody's Dog (poem)

There are a handful of questions that turn up over and over again from students when I’m visiting schools. How many books have you written? Who’s your favorite author? Are you rich? My dad plays a guitar just like that one! (Okay, that’s not a question. But it does turn up a lot!) But maybe the one that is asked most often…


I truly understand why this question is asked. The kids want a gauge to go by. Maybe we all do! If I put 2 hours into a poem, will it be good enough? 5 hours? 14 hours?

Of course the answer is never straight forward. This afternoon, after fretting over a poem assigned to me for an anthology – and for an anthologist whom I’ve been wanting to work with for years – I finally wrapped up a poem I hope will suit the collection. I’m happy with how the piece came together. But how many hours went into its creation?

I thought about that poem off and on for days, its theme, its form, its tone… Do I get to count those hours even though nothing ever landed on paper? I’d wake up in the middle of the night to sketch a note to myself about the poem, just a thread of an idea or a short phrase. And even when I finally sat down and got serious about completing the poem, I’d walk away from time to time to clear my head. That time away wasn’t exactly spent creating the poem, but it was critical to my creating process.

Almost immediately after “completing” the poem (This assumes I don’t revise again tomorrow. And that could sure happen!), I jumped into a second poem that had been tapping me on the shoulder for a couple of weeks. That poem poured out onto the page almost effortlessly. The photo above is the first and nearly final draft of Nobody’s Dog. Except for a couple of scratched lines and a very few words dropped or added, what hit the page first is what stayed. Here’s the final poem.


Nobody’s dog

is barking

from the alley.

Nobody’s dog

left a mess

in the middle of the street.

Nobody’s dog

watched me eat

breakfast this morning

from the café doorway

until the waitress

shooed him

with a dish towel.

Nobody’s dog

has swollen

and tired teats

from her second litter

this year.

Nobody’s dog

is sleeping near

the trash can

and has never known

what it means to be

somebody’s dog.

- Eric Ode, 2018

Tell me about your creating process. How would you answer the question of how long a project takes you?

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