Golden Retrievals by Mark Doty

Golden Retrievals (Mark Doty)

Fetch Balls and sticks capture my attention

Seconds at a time. Catch? I don’t think so.

Bunny, tumbling leaf, a squirrel who’s -oh

joy-actually scared. Sniff the wind, then


I’m off again; muck, pond, residue

of any thrillingly dead thing. And you?

Either you’re sunk in the past, half our walk,

thinking of what you can never bring back,


or else you’re off in some fog concerning

— tomorrow, is that what you call it? My work;

to unsnare time’s warp(and woof!), retrieving,

my haze-headed friend, you. This shining bark,


a Zen master’s bronzy gong, calls you here,

entirely, now; bow-wow, bow-wow, bow-wow.

Who is the speaker of the poem, and who, presumably, is the narrator addressing? What “lesson” is the speaker trying to teach this person?

The speaker from the poem, “Golden Retrievals” by Mark Doty, is a dog who likes to play and walk with his master. The dog finds out that his master is thinking and worrying about something which was happened in the past and something that will happen in the future. In the poem, the dog seems wiser than his master because he reads his master’s mind, and he knows that his master is “thinking of what he can never bring back.” The dog even knows his work, the purpose of his existence, which is to retrieve his master from the worrying mind cell. The dog barks to wake up  his master who is distracted by his worries about the past and the future, and the dog’s bark shine  like “a Zen master’s bronzy gong”. The lesson from this poem’s speaker is pretty simple. Don’t worry about things in the past and things in the future. There is nothing we can do about the things in the past, and there is no benefit to worrying about things in the future. The dog wants to “call his master here, entirely”. The dog wants his master to be with him entirely, no worries and no concerns. Now readers can be reminded of the wake up call from “a Zen master’s bronzy gong “when they hear their dog’s bark.


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