'What The Dog Perhaps Hears' by Lisel Mueller
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If an inaudible whistle
blown between our lips
can send him home to us,
then silence is perhaps
the sound of spiders breathing
and roots mining the earth;
it may be asparagus heaving,
headfirst, into the light
and the long brown sound
of cracked cups, when it happens.
We would like to ask the dog
if there is a continuous whir
because the child in the house
keeps growing, if the snake
really stretches full length
without a click and the sun
breaks through clouds without
a decibel of effort,
whether in autumn, when the trees
dry up their wells, there isn't a shudder
too high for us to hear.
What is it like up there
above the shut-off level
of our simple ears?
For us there was no birth cry,
the newborn bird is suddenly here,
the egg broken, the nest alive,
and we heard nothing when the world changed.
Editor 1 Interpretation
"What The Dog Perhaps Hears" by Lisel Mueller: A Literary Criticism
If you're a dog owner, or just a dog lover, you might have noticed that our furry friends have a remarkable ability to pick up on things we humans simply can't. From subtle changes in our body language to the sound of a squirrel running across the roof, dogs seem to be in tune with a world that's invisible to us. But what exactly do they hear? What goes on inside their minds when they perk up their ears and cock their heads? These are the questions that Lisel Mueller's poem "What The Dog Perhaps Hears" tries to answer – and in doing so, it offers us a glimpse into the mysterious ways of our canine companions.
Before we dive into the interpretation of the poem, let's take a moment to read it in full:
If an inaudible whistle blown between our lips can send him home to us, then silence is perhaps the sound of spiders breathing and roots mining the earth; it may be asparagus heaving, headfirst, into the light and the long brown sound of cracked cups, when it happens. We would like to ask the dog if there is a continuous whir because of a hidden machine somewhere, or if he hears a butterfly's heartbeat. We wonder if he dreams. We have never seen evidence of it, but someone will remember that he dreamed and that his dreams were like our dreams in their ending in their everything else.
On a first reading, the poem might seem disjointed and random, with its unconventional line breaks and leaps between images. But on closer inspection, we can discern a pattern emerging. The poem is structured around a series of questions that the speaker would like to ask the dog, and each question leads us into a new image or sound that might be part of the dog's auditory experience. The poem is written in free verse, with no identifiable rhyme scheme, and its language is simple and unadorned, as if to mimic the clarity and directness of a dog's perception.
So what is the poem trying to say? What is its theme or message? As with any work of art, there are multiple possible interpretations, and different readers will find different meanings in the poem. Here are a few of the themes that I think the poem touches upon:
The Mystery of Perception
At its core, the poem is about the mystery of perception – not just the dog's, but our own as well. The speaker is fascinated by the dog's ability to hear things that are invisible or inaudible to us, and she wonders what kind of world the dog inhabits. By extension, the poem asks us to question our own perceptions and to consider the possibility that there might be more to reality than what we can see, hear, or touch. The poem challenges us to expand our awareness and to embrace the wonder and strangeness of the world around us.
The Bond between Humans and Dogs
Another theme that emerges from the poem is the bond between humans and dogs. The poem suggests that dogs are not just pets or animals, but companions and friends who share our lives and our experiences. The speaker wants to connect with the dog and to understand what it hears and feels, as if trying to bridge the gap between two different species. The poem celebrates the mutual affection and loyalty that dogs and humans can have for each other, and it reminds us of the deep emotional connection that can exist between us and our furry friends.
The Power of Silence
Finally, the poem explores the power of silence and the value of stillness. The speaker suggests that silence might be the sound of things that are too small or too slow for us to hear, and that by listening to silence, we can attune ourselves to a different kind of reality. The poem invites us to slow down, to be present in the moment, and to listen to the world with open ears and an open heart. The poem suggests that in the stillness, we can find meaning and beauty.
To fully appreciate the richness and depth of the poem, it's worth examining some of the literary devices that Mueller employs. Here are a few that stand out:
The poem is filled with metaphors that help us to imagine the dog's world. For example, when the speaker suggests that "silence is perhaps / the sound of spiders breathing / and roots mining the earth," she is using metaphor to suggest that the dog's ears can pick up on sounds that are too faint or too distant for us to hear. The metaphor of the "inaudible whistle" that can "send him home to us" suggests that the dog's sense of hearing is finely tuned and can respond to even the slightest signals.
The poem is also rich in visual and auditory imagery that helps us to picture the world that the dog inhabits. The image of asparagus "heaving, / headfirst, into the light" is a striking one that evokes the struggle and growth of the natural world. The "long brown sound / of cracked cups" is an example of synesthesia, where the sound of a physical object is described in terms of its color and texture.
The poem also employs repetition to create a sense of rhythm and pattern. The repetition of the phrase "We wonder" at the beginning of several lines creates a sense of continuity and anticipation, as each new line leads us deeper into the speaker's curiosity and imagination. The repetition of the phrase "in their" in the final lines of the poem creates a sense of similarity and connection between the dog's dreams and our own.
"What The Dog Perhaps Hears" is a deceptively simple poem that invites us to look at the world through a dog's eyes – or rather, ears. Through its use of metaphor, imagery, and repetition, the poem creates a rich and evocative portrait of the dog's sensory experience, and it invites us to consider the mystery and wonder of perception itself. Whether you're a dog lover or not, this poem offers a poignant reminder of the beauty and complexity of the world around us, and the ways in which we can learn from our animal companions.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
What The Dog Perhaps Hears: A Masterpiece of Poetic Expression
Lisel Mueller's "What The Dog Perhaps Hears" is a poem that captures the essence of the human experience through the eyes of a dog. The poem is a beautiful and thought-provoking piece of literature that explores the relationship between humans and their pets. In this article, we will take a closer look at the poem and analyze its meaning, structure, and literary devices.
The poem begins with the line, "If an inaudible whistle, blown between our lips, can send him home to us." This line sets the tone for the rest of the poem and introduces the idea that there is a special connection between humans and their dogs. The whistle is a symbol of communication, and the fact that it is inaudible suggests that there is a deeper level of understanding between the two species.
The next few lines of the poem describe the dog's perception of the world. The dog hears "sounds beyond the limit of our hearing," and "smells with his nose the coming of a storm." These lines suggest that the dog is more attuned to the natural world than humans are. The dog's senses are heightened, and he is able to perceive things that humans cannot.
The poem then takes a turn and explores the idea that the dog is not just a pet, but a companion. The line, "He is the love in our lives that we cannot always articulate," suggests that the dog is more than just an animal. He is a source of comfort and companionship for humans, and his presence in our lives is invaluable.
The poem then goes on to describe the dog's loyalty. The line, "He is the eyes that look at us with love unconditionally," suggests that the dog's love is unwavering. He is always there for us, no matter what. The dog's loyalty is a testament to the bond between humans and their pets.
The poem then takes a darker turn and explores the idea of death. The line, "He is the grief that rubs itself against our bones," suggests that the loss of a pet is a painful experience. The dog's death is not just the loss of an animal, but the loss of a companion and friend.
The final lines of the poem bring the focus back to the dog's perception of the world. The line, "He is the voice that speaks when we are too busy to listen," suggests that the dog has a unique perspective on the world. He sees things that humans cannot, and his voice is a reminder to slow down and appreciate the world around us.
The structure of the poem is simple but effective. The poem is divided into six stanzas, each with four lines. The use of short stanzas and simple language makes the poem easy to read and understand. The repetition of the phrase "He is" throughout the poem creates a sense of unity and reinforces the idea that the dog is more than just an animal.
The poem also makes use of several literary devices. The use of symbolism, such as the whistle and the dog's senses, adds depth to the poem and reinforces the idea that there is a deeper level of understanding between humans and their pets. The use of repetition, as mentioned earlier, creates a sense of unity and reinforces the poem's central theme. The use of personification, such as "grief that rubs itself against our bones," adds emotion and depth to the poem.
In conclusion, "What The Dog Perhaps Hears" is a beautiful and thought-provoking poem that explores the relationship between humans and their pets. The poem is a testament to the bond between humans and their dogs and reminds us of the importance of slowing down and appreciating the world around us. The poem's simple structure and use of literary devices make it easy to read and understand, while its powerful message resonates with readers of all ages.
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