Poem of the Week | December 21, 2020

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Black Dog Goes to Therapy” by Sandy Longhorn!

Sandy Longhorn has received the Porter Fund Literary Prize for Arkansas authors and the Collins Prize from the Birmingham Poetry Review. She is the author of three books of poetry: The Alchemy of My Mortal Form, The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths, and Blood Almanac. Her poems have appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, North American Review, Oxford American, and elsewhere. Longhorn teaches in the Arkansas Writer’s MFA program at the University of Central Arkansas, where she directs the C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference.


Black Dog Goes to Therapy

against his will, does that thing
where he puts all his weight into resisting

the leash so I’m dragging his hundred pound
heft and he’s on his haunches, digging in

with the nails I keep meaning to trim.
Even the collar tightening around his throat

isn’t enough. He scoffs out a cough
and sends a baleful look from hooded eyes.

It’s Scatter Monkey’s screech, his leaps
from shoulder to chandelier, the way

he pelts us with foam pellets of doubt
that has Black Dog lurching forward

snatching his fraternal twin
out of the air. I find myself

resolute. I use their animosity
against them and manage to haul

us all out the door, only running
ten minutes behind, determined to make

the most of the minutes I’ll have left
to toil on the soft couch.


Author’s Note

The use of the black dog as a metaphor for depression can be traced back to the Roman poet Horace, ca. 40 BC. Grappling with dysthymia (moderated, persistent depression), I created the persona of Black Dog to help communicate my relationship with this diagnosis. Wanting to also include how a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder complicates my experience of the world, but without an iconic cultural metaphor, I invented Scatter Monkey. Each has their own set of poems; however, from time to time they appear as a dynamic duo of sorts such as in this poem.