Why Do You Ask?

Mar 3, 2017

Today’s poem is “Why Do You Ask” by Kate Barnes.  Kate was Maine’s first poet laureate and the author of 4 books of poems.  She was the daughter of two writers, Elizabeth Coatsworth and Henry Beston.  Kate grew up in Massachusetts and spent summers at her parents’ Chimney Pond Farm in Nobleboro.  

When this poem was published in Maine Magazine, Kate wrote about it: “Emerson wrote in his journal that ‘Dreams and beasts are the two keys by which we find out the secrets of our own nature; they are test objects’ When she heard that, my dog felt I should write this poem.”

Why Do You Ask?
By Kate Barnes

I can’t make
   any story
     about my life

tonight. The house
  is like an overturned

the radio
  is predicting
     more rain.

I ask my dog
  to tell me
     a story, and she

never hesitates
  “Once upon
     a time,” she says,

“a woman lived
  with a simply
     wonderful dog…” and

she stops talking.
  “Is that all?”
     I ask her.

“Yes,” she says.
  “Why do you ask?
     Isn’t that enough?”

Poem copyright 2004 from Kate Barnes, Kneeling Orion.  
Published by David R. Godine, 2004.  
Reprinted with permission from publisher.