• — For Claire
  • He is so ugly he is a psalm to ugliness,
  • this extra-terrestrial, short-haired
  • midget sea lion,
  • snorts, farts, grunts, turns somersaults
  • on his mistress’ bed.
  • She calls him an imperfect Boston terrier,
  • part gnome, part elf,
  • half something and half something else,
  • 180,000,000-year-old Clancy
  • with his yellowy-white, pin-pointy teeth
  • and red, misshapen pre-historic gums.
  • Clancy has no tail at all and doesn’t bark.
  • He squeaks like a monkey,
  • flies through the air,
  • lands at six every morning
  • on his mistress’ head,
  • begging to be fed and wrapped not in a robe
  • but a spread.
  • Tree frog, wart hog, ground hog,
  • “Clancy, Clancy,” she calls for him
  • in the early morning fog,
  • and he appears, anything, anything,
  • part anything, but a dog.

The poet Robert Sward has taught at Cornell University, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and at UC Santa Cruz. A Fulbright Scholar and Guggenheim fellow, he has published 30 books. Born and raised in Chicago, Sward served in the Navy during the Korean War. Jack Foley has characterized Sward’s poetry as “the product of a restless, spiritually adventuresome sensibility masking itself as a stand-up comedian.” “Clancy the Dog” is from Sward’s New and Selected Poems 1957–2011, published by Red Hen Press, and is reprinted by permission.

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