Listen:

stands outside the dismantled city

A forest of buildings falls down
inside him. When he sleeps

he dreams of forests, but awake
he can’t remember leaves

or the soft sound
that floated down from above
preceding the beneficial
manifestation of food.

Or who it was
who was always
with him.

The last dog in the world
is afraid to regard his tail.

Can’t smell the earth anymore

since all scents left by other
have evaporated. And all
others have evaporated.

For these reasons it’s difficult

for the last dog
to travel anywhere.

Instead he curls up in the corner
of a former gas station, under a pile

of leaflets declaring the End
of the World. Or under the other

leaflets arguing that
The World Will Go On, the world
will always go on. The first

pile of leaflets, apparently,
has won. But the dog doesn’t
know this. What’s paper to him, anyway?

What are days? Just him and
the left-over spiders.
Him and the rusted hinges
and oil refineries and cars stopped

in their tracks on the empty
highways.

How long can a last dog
live like this? The world goes

on and on.

Illustration: Ansellia Kulikku. Image source: "Sketch of a Dog," ca. 1295–1070 B.C. From the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Sarah Messer

Sarah Messer has received fellowships and grants from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the NEA, and the Mellon Foundation. In 2008-2009 she was a fellow in poetry at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (Bunting) at Harvard. She is the author of a hybrid history/memoir, Red House (Viking), and a poetry book, Bandit Letters (New Issues). Her work has appeared in The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, and Ploughshares, among others. She teaches at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and runs One Pause Poetry, a reading series in Ann Arbor, Michigan.