Sunday Poetry Series Presents: Robert Archambeau

Black Dog’s Bedside Manner

by Robert Archambeau

for John Matthias in a losing season,
the black dog depression at his side

The black dog’s in the room with you,
and what to do but wait until he bites?
He’ll wolf your dinner, spill your whiskey,
piss in the fireplace when you try to write.
He’ll bar the door, he’ll stretch and lean, stare cross-eyed
at your daughters and then leer at your wife.
He’s slipped the Bishop’s muzzle, he’s gnawed the lawyer’s cat.
Despite the best prescriptions, he’s made the doctors’ cough.
The black dog’s in your bed with you,
and what to do but wait until he bites?
Spurt-sprinting in his sleep, he dreams you’re prey,
caught, clutched and carried, cradled in his gentle jaw back home.
In your dream you run from him, or write
“sit, boy” or “beg” or “heel” or “fetch.”
And in your dream the black dog takes his bitch.
Beside your bed and fevered sleep
he rests his paw upon your sweating head,
he leans in to hear you muttering
“Play dead, play dead, play dead…”


Robert Archambeau is the author of Word Play Place (Ohio/Swallow), Home and Variations (Salt), and Laureates and Heretics (Notre Dame). He is one of the editors of The &NOW Awards: The Best Innovative Writing (Lake Forest/&NOW), and professor of English at Lake Forest College. He blogs at The above poem is used by permission of the author and originally appeared in Another Chicago Magazine.

About Okla Elliott

I am currently an assistant professor at Misericordia University in northeast Pennsylvania. I hold a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Illinois, an MFA in creative writing from Ohio State University, and a legal studies certificate from Purdue University. My work has appeared in Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, The Hill, Huffington Post, Indiana Review, The Literary Review, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, A Public Space, and Subtropics, as well as being listed as a "notable essay" in Best American Essays 2015. My books include From the Crooked Timber (short fiction), The Cartographer’s Ink (poetry), The Doors You Mark Are Your Own (a coauthored novel), Blackbirds in September: Selected Shorter Poems of Jürgen Becker (translation), and Bernie Sanders: The Essential Guide (nonfiction).
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3 Responses to Sunday Poetry Series Presents: Robert Archambeau

  1. C. Clarke says:

    Funny poem – I liked it. It even made me laugh out loud (the part about the dog pissing in the fireplace while you try to write, which reminded me of how my cat seeks to distract me just when I finally get round to sitting down ready to concentrate on some serious writing); other parts of the poem made me chuckle.

    Cute picture of the black doog too. Although he looks perhaps a bit menacing, yet there’s a look in his eyes that he also, like any creature, simply wants to love and be loved, in his own unique way.

  2. A. Jones says:

    I like it. From my experiences with loved ones, it is a true representation of depression.

  3. Kel says:

    I understand.
    I feel your poem.
    He hunts me too.

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