Poem to Pin on the Refrigerator at the Mountain Cabin


As usual it is the dog who teaches me the subtlest language of the place.
I am not the most brilliant bulb in the history of the galaxy but I do hear
The headlong mutter and burble of the stammering river, and the seethe
Of the breeze among the firs, and I can hear the occasional whir and zip
Of cars and dark moan of log trucks, and I hear the kid in the next cabin
Laughing as she picks up the Easter eggs her grandparents sort of hid in
The woods but hid ostentatiously so that she could find them right quick,
But it is the dog, attached tenuously to a tall boy, who stalks and bounds
Around the cabin and the shed and the ancient well and pretty much says
Bear, chipmunk, fox, mink, deer, elk, and about twenty flavors of mouse.
Not to mention squirrels in small and large packages, and marmots, bats,
Shrews, and what I am pretty sure is a cougar. That’s a frightening scent,
But alluring, says the dog, looking scared and badass and excited at once.
Also gophers, and frogs—you could find a lot of small meat to eat here!,
He says, yanking on the leash. The boy attached to him says hey, skunk!,
And the dog, who knows way more child language than he likes to admit,
Snaps his ears up like antennae. Lesson: there are languages in your nose.

Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, and the author of ten books, including, most recently, the novel Mink River.