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American Life in Poetry

Poor Richard’s Almanac said, “He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas,” but that hasn’t kept some of us from sleeping with our dogs. Here’s a poem about the pleasure of that, by Joyce Sidman, who lives and sleeps in Minnesota. Her book, “Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night,” won a 2011 Newbery Honor Award.

Dog in Bed

Nose tucked under tail,

you are a warm, furred planet

centered in my bed.

All night I orbit, tangle-limbed,

in the slim space

allotted to me.

If I accidentally

bump you from sleep,

you shift, groan,

drape your chin on my hip.

O, that languid, movie-star drape!

I can never resist it.

Digging my fingers into your fur,


      I wonder:

How do you dream?

What do you adore?

Why should your black silk ears

feel like happiness?

This is how it is with love.

Once invited,

it steps in gently,

circles twice,

and takes up as much space

as you will give it.

Poem copyright 2003 by Joyce Sidman from “World According to Dog” (Houghton Mifflin, 2003), and reprinted by permission of the author and publisher. American Life in Poetry is supported by The Poetry Foundation and the English department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.