Susie DeFord
Poetry

DOGS OF BROOKLYN is Susie DeFord's fresh poetic narrative about her colorful life as a dog walker in Brooklyn accompanied by vivid photographs by Dennis Riley.


“Susie DeFord’s DOGS OF BROOKLYN is a high-energy homage to a neighborhood, a borough, and a city. It offers a lament for the city’s “becoming like the suburban sprawl we all fled here to escape” while also standing as proof of the city’s vitality, its ongoing possibility for poetry. Full of dicey humor and uncommon open-heartedness for human and non-human animals alike, DOGS OF BROOKLYN celebrates the blessed state of being both one and numerous.” –Maggie Nelson 

 “From the strut of “Prospect Heights Pop” Susie DeFord lets us have it with her “swing dance bopping / big band mind” and that IT is Brooklyn with its “trash confetti streets” where Spring’s pollen turns to summer’s barbeque smoke and dirt. This book is studded with sonnets that thrill with their funk mixed with sophisticated end rhymes. DeFord gives us her streets and people in a roller coaster ride of sense images—dogs, crazies, Laundromat ladies, with a sprinkling of yuppie moms—and seems to be saying we’re all animals in this world, and it’s a glorious and messy street party day and night.” –Barbara Hamby 

“Dogs bring out the best in us, and certainly they bring the best poems out of Susie DeFord. And while you'll pick up a lot of dog lore from these poems, the main thing you'll see is how she uses the dog life as a tool to explore her city, her self, and you as well, reader. For to peer into these poems is to look into the face of your favorite pooch and see there a reflection of the person you are but also the one you really want to be, the one who's affectionate, loyal, curious, energetic, someone with a boundless appetite for life—someone very much like a dog, in other words. Here's to Susie and her beautiful poems! And to our four-footed friends everywhere.” –David Kirby 

“Susie DeFord’s exhilarating Dogs of Brooklyn brims with the energy of the city (and animals) she loves. The writing is vigorous, the perceptions acute, and the feelings infectious. A terrific debut.” –John Koethe 

“Our canine betters, our friends since pre-history, have rarely had the justice done to them that Susie DeFord does in her wonderful poetic investigations into the life of Brooklyn's dogs, into their habits, their idiosyncrasies, and their secret longings.” –Vijay Seshadri


EXCERPTS

photo of Fred by Dennis Riley

Prospect Heights Pop

Walking home from the Q train, dogs and coffee 
shops split street strut, brownstone buildings 
and big trees bud, shooting up from the sidewalk, 

dreadlocked drug dealers stalk, hanging on changing 
corners---the neighborhood watch while Maclaren 
Mafia mommies’ doublewide strollers scream on by. 

Sidewalk block, I weave and wave through the window 
at big, soft Audrey working in the new chi-chi bakery. 
Better than the lemon cookies, she always says hello 

and remembers my coffee. Soul tracks for sale outside 
the Key Food serenade as macho men swallow me 
with their scary smiles. The tough Brooklyn guys 

at Acme Pet Shop on Vanderbilt Avenue with their old 
orange cat Knuckles chuckle at their Akita pup Lefty 
as he jumps up to box me. Head down Prospect past 

Harry and three-legged Fred lounging, hogging up 
the sidewalk looking for strokes and extra treats 
to make up for his hop-walk like a bouncing spring. 

Hit Underhill and follow the Jah Love guy with his 
giant boombox blasting reggae, doing his slow strange 
walking meditation, Jesus Loves You sign strapped 

to his back, and I think he must have, to have given 
me this neighborhood so suited to the swing dance 
bopping in my big band mind. Click the vestibule keys, 

check the mail, doors squeal and slam like a drumbeat. 
I dance up the dirty, dark stairs to the tiny shoebox 
apartment where Itty Pity, hearing me wrestle the locks, 

starts howling her blues. My mama been gone, left me 
all alone. Said my mama been gone, left me all alone. 
She run around with them dogs, to keep the lights on.
 


photo of Francis by Dennis Riley

St. Francis of 42nd Street

Troubador turned beggar, a dapper king growling from your jeweled 
throne as I enter your home. You turn your whiskered nose up 
until I offer mice bites of cheese from the icebox. 

You take them carefully from my fingertips with your tiny teeth, 
then to show your love of all creatures great and small, you hump
your giraffe. Our pilgrimage begins, we step out amidst 

the Poor Clares, you sniff gingerly. Slip and click, claws scrape 
hallway linoleum as you scuttle from doormat to doormat. Sit 
your silent protest of passive resistance at top of stairs-- 

it worked for Ghandi and Martin Luther King but you’re just ten 
tough pounds of hair and teeth, a bat without wings, this city’s 
great rat terrier, terrorist king. Jacob’s not the only one 

who’s wrestling bigger things. I coax you downward , you resist 
then relent, sensing my stubbornness more than your own. 
On the streets you’re a bowling ball on a string, a yo-yo 

getting caught on the scents of trees and your need to mark 
everything, a urinary graffiti artist bombing the hell out 
of Brooklyn, needing to be smelled and seen, 

and then comes a Shepard, a flock of other dogs, and you snap 
from your cool collar upturned James Dean to the 42nd street 
savage yelling and foaming. You may need to rethink 

your recruitment strategy. I lift you up in your harness--suspended 
you squirm a spider web worn and traveling. A flight of steps, 
a plight of depths, stop dead in your tracks afraid of falling 

upwards. It’s let go or be dragged, you’re rising, surprising yourself 
with your own abilities, if only walking through fear was as easy 
as being pulled up by someone who keeps believing.


photo of Indiana and Amelia by Dennis Riley

Invisible Trampolines

Indiana is unimpressed with Amelia’s antics, 
bounding around on invisible trampolines, 

out of nowhere bursts of energy and whim, 
electricity, whenever the moment lighting 

strikes her. She’s a tiger-striped whirlwind, 
a bouncing boxer ready for a fake fight, 

she delights at snow banks and sand alike, 
children screeching after school or anyone 

who “Awwws” her goofy grin. She’ll show
them, nub tail wagging a frenetic hummingbird

wiggle, she dances figure eights along cement 
cracks and splits. Her comrade Indiana 

can’t be bothered with this. He’s serious, 
on a mission looking out for imaginary 

assassins, tail down shiver cold, too tough 
for the sweater, he growls low when I try 

to put it on him. Shark eyes black blink 
surveying the scene, a reincarnated army 

sergeant running drills along the sidewalk 
until Amelia bangs her body into him, 

momentarily he lets go and does a little hop
along with her remembering there’s more 

to life than boxing, there’s the moment 
and all the dancing spins it can dream. 


Links to Poems in other places:

Poems  in Shampoo, Dog Fancy, and the anthology Dogs Singing. 

"Searching for Whitman's Beard" published in Mipoesias August 2010.

Poem published on Work Zine 2010

5 poems published in Poets and Artists December 2009

"Powerboat Pit Bull" poem and photo published aClattery MacHinrey.

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