Nicola Thorstensen

Nicola Thorstensen is a member of Dunedin’s Octagon Poetry Collective, which organises monthly poetry readings. Her work has appeared in previous issues of takahē, Poetry New Zealand, and political anthology Manifesto.


2018 is the Chinese Year of the Dog, which got me thinking about the status of dogs in our society, and the often unsung contribution they make.


Year of the dog


It’s a celebration at the Chinese Garden.
May I bring my dog, I ask.
Dogs are not allowed.

I don’t have a dog.

That night, dogs assemble at the gates.
Greyfriars Bobby communes with Capitan
and Hachiko, finds language no barrier –
talks loyalty, talks transcendental love.

Litters of Lassie’s doppelganger descendants
let their weathered “Pay Parity” placards
do the talking, still confident that the royalty
cheques are in the mail.

A bunch of beagles from Border Protection
bring their constantly-dripping noses.
The guide dogs’ collective has sent a braille apology.
They never clock off.

Laika’s there, her spacesuit
shucked. She ponders the meaning of
“propelled into stardom”, the meaning of
informed consent.

Every police dog who ever fell
in the line of duty
stands sombre
forming a guard of honour.

Alarmed staff poise for unrest, pepper spray primed
but this mongrel mob maintains
a silent vigil. They know
who has the opposable thumbs.