Halvard Johnson
Sonnet: My Dog Sunyata

Having a bite--falafel or maybe a slice of pizza (extra
cheese, no meat)--I watched the dog outside, leashed to a utility
pole, sitting quietly, waiting for its master or mistress, whatever,
reminding me of my dog Sunyata, who never failed to amuse

me whenever I took notice of him. "Here, Sunyata,"
I would command, and he would unfailingly obey, come
to wherever I was and sit there, looking up at me
with his brown eyes. My dog Sunyata hated the president

as much as I did, rolled his eyes and growled whenever
he came on TV. My wife had taken to leaving us alone
at such times, knowing that to do otherwise would invite
retribution. Streetcars still came and went in those days,

taking their power from overhead powerlines, as though
power were something just there to be taken.


Down at the station I am struck
by a thought that carries
me along with it past downtown
exclamations along the order

of “Look at me!” and “Here am
I!” and into seedy boroughs
of “No way!” streets and “Who you
lookin' at?” alleys. Then the green

of “I've got mine, Jack” suburbs
flashes by on the right, with river
sucked seaward on the left, until
the little towns—so quaint, so coy—

slide past. First, “Why me, O Lord?”
then “What have I done to deserve this?”
in quick succession; then, farther north,
in dairy country, a bite-sized town called “Huh?”

For an hour I brood between “Huh?”
and “Hmmm,” where there's a longish
stop for fuel and water, and I
climb off and walk around for a while.

Back on board, I start taking
notes, jotting down this’s
and that’s about these’s and those’s.
I hear a conductor coming through

the car—voice powerful and deep—
announcing, “Next stop, Eureka!”
I snap to wakefulness, fully aware
now that I’ve had a doze—on the wrong

train, on the wrong coast, for any
sort of ultimate destination—
so at the next station, the one for Muddle
and Quandary, I grab my bags, get off, and am home.