Kwame Alexander’s community poem imagines what your pets might say about you: NPR

Kwame Alexander’s latest participatory poem explores the world through the eyes of morning edition listeners’ pets.

Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images

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Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images

Kwame Alexander’s latest participatory poem explores the world through the eyes of morning edition listeners’ pets.

Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images

We asked and your pets answered.

NPR Poet-in-Residence Kwame Alexander shares his latest community poem from pet owners across the country, ages 6 to 86.

We’ve heard from over 700 of you sharing the words of what your pets might think of you, their next meals, their next adventures, their next cuddles and more.

Read Alexander’s poem, titled Dear Captor: You speak, I wonder.

Hi my name is Larry Longshanks

And for my parents, I give thanks.

My name is Leo and I am a dog

Once I was left out to almost eat a frog

Fluffy, the kindergarten hamster

I am the 6th to bear the name.

I try to live my life with dignity and grace, resigned to my fate.

But one day, when one of them takes me home,

I swear I will escape.

It is dark and cold. I hear the other prisoners barking.

I don’t blame you for that last trip to the vet four days ago.

The women gave me remarkable treats.

My needs are so few:

Food, water, toys and outdoors

A clean litter box

I am a stinky dog.

I lick, jump, eat everything

I sniffle, I piss

I smell every tree

Who was here before

Shrill and sweet in your residential jungle, dear kidnapper, I hear your whispering eyelash and rustling pulse, but I hear beyond: the scraping tread of a ladybug, the dusty wing of a moth, the delicate dances of a spider.

You talk, I wonder would you notice every sky if I wasn’t there to take you out?

I can’t tell you about my life before

As well, I don’t want you to be sad

Despite its many clocks,

the woman constantly forgot the time.

Still saying “It’s not time yet” when clearly my bowl was empty, and I was perishing before his eyes.

Dad threatened to turn me into a stew; Then came back with carrots and sweets again;

And those boys were so loud

Always stomping and screaming

We wished they were silent

So that we can start dreaming again

They have to eat cookies and gravy

All we ever had was dried flakes

We would like something tastier

How about potato pancakes?

Now I’m in a relationship with a stupid woman who doesn’t understand that threats are everywhere.

She naively walks past dogs that might rush in and rip her throat out. She ignores the plastic bags dancing in the wind that may cover her face as she struggles to breathe.

She doesn’t run very fast

She always hears the postman last

And I don’t think his sense of smell works very well

She walks on clumsy feet, her head floats in the air,

She can’t meow and has no fur and doesn’t seem to care

that when she sings her nonsense lyrics and speaks my name

I look at her politely then have to close my eyes in shame

She calls me wiggle butt.

And stroller.

And cuddle an insect.


Love insect.



At this point I get to anything

Because it could mean food.

Or treats.

Or a walk.

Or hugs.

Curled up like a doughnut,

I’m patiently waiting for my family

I will spend my life protecting her. This is the burden I carry.

Once wild and free, now safe and sound

In a new home, joy and love have been found

Gone are the days of hunting and fear

Now a life of comfort and joy

Thank you good soul for giving a chance

This love pillow looking for knees and the best way

Booths. Sat. Stands ready to serve you. I humbly suggest

That you put aside your boring worries

With my used tennis balls.

Come join me in a common canape-sweet delight.

I am here to listen to your every thought. To wish. Dream.

However, I am sometimes worried

That you forgot dinner.

(I never forget dinner.)

Today I won an apple for a prize

To jump the best

Then I return to my stand to rest

Finally it’s lunch time

My dinner is gone, oh, woe to me

I ate it all with so much relish.

I’m screaming in sorrow, impossible to ignore

But my people will not give me more.

No crispy kibble, no savory morsels

It’s enough to give me fits.

When my water bowl is dry

I think I will surely die –

But when mom caresses my ears

I forget all my fears –

Are you home! Are you home!

You were gone, and I thought the wait would never end.

How long did it last –

One minute? One o’clock? One day? One week?

I have to go; I have to go; I have to go

What is there in all this that he does not understand?

I am clear here about my needs

Why doesn’t he take the leash?

For 15 years, you have offered me such cozy nests.

Though I can’t jump high fences anymore (or even get on the couch)

or bring comatose opossums late at night to wake up on your mat,

I always love warm sunny days and

Evenings where we look each other in the eye

From my comfortable orthopedic bed.

She says I’m an angel in a fur coat

That I carry her heart in mine

I do not know what that means

What I know is that

you loved me from the minute you saved me

running away scares you to death… but i can’t help it

I am daring and argumentative

your right arm is now longer than your left after five years of lead

I’m overwhelmed with excitement when we have company

I can’t help it when the resident squirrel runs our fence

I’m addicted to butter

it makes you laugh when I come from behind, between your knees, and look at you

you are happy and content when we are together

One day, dear human, I will write a tome for you.

For now, you’ll have to make do with this poem.

You live for me and me alone.

HEY! Where is my bone?!?

This community poem was created from submissions from:

Patricia Kessel, Portland, Oregon.

Pranathi Srini, Tustin, CA.

Noah Holmes, Aurora, Ohio

Heather Christianson, Sacramento, CA.

Joanna Tapio, Chicago, Ill.

Elaina Hannigan, Corvallis, Oregon.

Kim Bridges, Richmond, Virginia.

Kimberly Whalen, Lakeville, Minn.

Jennifer Nunez, San Jose, CA.

Judy Radlinsky, San Jose, CA.

Margaret Bridges, Portland, Oregon.

Betsy Shiroma, Ardsley, NY

Jim Pointer, Denver, Col.

David Bader, New York, NY

Valerie Lim, Tucson, Arizona.

Harlan Shays, Raleigh, North Carolina

Cecily Kiester, Wash.

Mary Rudzinski, Portland, Oregon.

Stephanie Spencer, Vancouver, Wash.

Gregory Groth, Portsmouth, NH

Jan Crocker, Macon, Ga.

Carmen Kuziemsky, Buffalo, NY

Claire Buttry, Longmont, Col.

Diane Peters-Nguyen, Kailua, Hawaii

Andy Lange, Overland Park, Kan.

Serene Dougan, Fairview, Oregon.

Mary Alison Leatart, Bend, Oregon.

Brook Rajnowski, Fort Collins, Col.

Joyce Cheng, Hillsboro, Oregon.

Linda Muhlhausen, Middletown, New Jersey

Theresa Norman, Edinburgh, Texas

This poem was produced with the help of Karan Chaudhary. Julie Depenbrock and Reena Advani produced and edited the audio story. Reena Advani and Rachel Treisman adapted it for the web.

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