Big Dogs in Tall Grass

On the beach at Refugio we walked under palms through sea grass
Small waves rolling off the point from curlers coiled and we’re
Young and unafraid holding our long boards against our hips and in
Summer surfers with yellow and green bangs and those days only a few dogs
Peopled the campground under the fat wide palms big
Umbrellas shading the old watermen drinking cool beers out of tall

Cans telling stories of how in their days the waves were really tall
Paddling out beyond the kelp beds and diving through the ocean grass
Holding their breaths under water scraping off the rocks big
Abalone shells for eating on the beach around the evening fire we’re
Stoking in a giant hole near the high tide mark with dogs
Down the beach running after gulls swooping low and in

The water the dogs paddle into the shallows after the gulls in
The shore pound the old stories go out with the tide before the big tall
Pensheet dogs with designer stories of virtual waves but these dogs
Don’t see the sun also rising setting fire to the grass
We don’t need your tall tales we are a big dog generation we’re
Never going to passeth away we’re just that big

The pensheet dogs they said were high class the dogs were really big
Went to the finest schools in the prairie grass land in
With the in crowds in with the big dog push the big dogs were
All witty wealthy healthy hardly weathered at all and tall
And ran through the tallest grass
But didn’t notice on their tail trailing the three headed dog

Bidding them sign a yellow dog
and sign it they did the big
Dog generation in the tall grass
Trying to avoid passing away in
Dog dress posed in ties tall
And dog weary of putting on the dog were

Bone tired and dogged they were
Now in the dog days of their runs as big dogs
Woofing at their virtual waves barking tall
In the overhead grass under a big
Ocean prairie sky panting and drooling in
The tall dry smoky grass.

Who listens to this doggerel we’re wishing still big
And long swells to the lucky dogs under running laughter in
The whirling wind through the tall sea grass!


  1. dan hennessy says:

    I once went to a graduate math department beer keg party , hours late , and listened to inebriated math minds talking math , talking shop .
    Your poem full of literary references jammed together with surfing reminds me of the math party . Your party was equally entertaining if I suspend my urge to understand most of the literary references , the poet’s jargon , the rabid ( dog theme ! ) flow of the lines . Thanks .
    Dan H.


    1. Joe Linker says:

      Dan, I had a boss once who often said we were big dogs in tall grass, and a co-worker as often asked me what our boss meant by the phrase, but we never knew for sure. But there are only a couple of “literary references” in this sestina, the Book of Ecclesiastes, and Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, the same reference, really, since Hemingway quotes the generations passing part in his opening. The rest is all about Refugio. The yellow-dog contract is not a literary reference, but was something some bosses of old made their employees sign, preventing them from joining a union, before laws made the practice illegal. The rest is about big dogs as a cultural elitist phenomenon, though, as my old boss used to say, “we’re all just big dogs in tall grass.” I still don’t know what it means; maybe it is a literary reference, but if it is, I don’t know to what. But I suppose it speaks to vanity somehow, too. Anyway, he was a very good boss.

      Bible, King James. Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth), from The holy Bible, King James version

      1: The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
      2: Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
      3: What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
      4: One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
      5: The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
      6: The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.
      7: All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
      8: All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
      9: The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
      10: Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
      11: There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.


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