“The Best Moment of the Night” by Tony Hoagland
(originally published in The Sun Magazine, April 2012)
You had a moment with the dog,
down near the base of the butcher-block table
just as the party was getting started.
Just as the guests were bringing in
their potluck salads and vegetarian lasagna,
setting them down on the buffet,
you had an unforeseeable exchange of warmth
with this scruffy, bug-eyed creature
who let you scratch his ears.
He lives down there, among the high heels
and the cowboy boots, below the human roar
rising to its boil up above. Like his, your evening
is just beginning — but you
are lonelier than him. You think
that if you disappeared tonight,
you would not be missed for years;
yet here, the licking of the hands and face;
and here, the baring of the vulnerable belly.
You are still panting, and alive, and seeking love;
yet no one who knows you
about your wet, black nose,
or that you can wag your tail.