The Poodle Palace

I never pass the Poodle Palace
with its barber pole in the shape
of a striped beribboned bone and the sign:
Specializing in Large and Matted Dogs,
without remembering the bitter wonder
of the taxi-driver from somewhere in India who asked me,
‘What is that, Poodle Palace?
What does it mean?’—and when I told him,
laughed, and for blocks,
laughed intermittently, a laughter
dry as fissured earth,
angry and sharp as the ineradicable
knowledge of chronic famine,
of human lives given to destitution
from birth to death. A laugh
in which the stench of ordure
simmered, round which a fog of flies
hovered, a laugh laughed to himself,
whether in despair or hatred, and not
as a form of address: he was indifferent
to whether I heard
it or not.
-Denise Levertov

8 responses to “The Poodle Palace

  1. This sort of drivel neither illuminates nor pleases but instead repeats the cliche of human exceptionalism and invites us in on the joke

    ” a laughter . . .
    angry and sharp as the ineradicable
    knowledge of chronic famine,
    of human lives given to destitution
    from birth to death.”

    as if human lives matter above all else

    We need a poetics of Object Oriented Ontology where the entangled kin ship of the dog and the driver and the poet and the taxi all define each other’s immateriality in a non-hierarchical manner. make that a CFP

  2. Your comment merely repeats the joke through the ens of affect. My point is these objectified constructs are all around — the ridiculous idea of a human driving a mechanical vehicle or having his own cultural understanding. The dos and nails can be a form of abuse so this is like making fun of prisoners for wearing orange

  3. my aren’t we both prickly pears this morning.

    We agree there is a joke. And it is about the absurd. I argue that the joke is about prioritizing humanity over the non human in the section of the poem quoted. The driver’s laughter is informed by valorizing a consciousness of human suffering over and above a (jargon alert) material semiosis with the non human. The joke is a relationship with an animal has been privileged in some place over the demands of the human. My take-away is that what is really absurd is the driver and the poet believe they share a sense of the absurd as humans and do not see the inherent exceptionalism in their commonality.

    I am not scolding but am serious and have given talks which include the topic on the blog today discussed through narcissism, Lasch, objectification, etc. in the context of the human animal relationship and companion animals. In an 03 sense, why is the joke funny if a billiard ball is not privileged over a planet?

    • it’s not literally a joke but a poem about human absurdity and what we make of the world including critters which suffer our uses and abuses, I think yer missing how the very existence of poodles is an example of this.

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