The Dogs at Live Oak Beach, Santa Cruz

Creative Commons license.
Creative Commons license.

The Dogs at Live Oak Beach, Santa Cruz
Alicia Ostriker

As if there could be a world
Of absolute innocence
In which we forget ourselves


The owners throw sticks
And half-bald tennis balls
Toward the surf
And the happy dogs leap after them
As if catapulted—


Black dogs, tan dogs,
Tubes of glorious muscle—


Pursuing pleasure
More than obedience
They race, skid to a halt in the wet sand,
Sometimes they’ll plunge straight into
The foaming breakers


Like diving birds, letting the green turbulence
Toss them, until they snap and sink
Teeth into floating wood
Then bound back to their owners
Shining wet, with passionate speed
For nothing,
For absolutely nothing but joy.