Howard Nemerov: Poems Summary

Howard Nemerov: Poems Summary

Walking the Dog

In the poem “Walking the Dog” the speaker is walking his dog down the street in the evening , reflecting on their relationship.

They have been walking down the street in a slow pace which feels for the speaker as if they have been walking for a long time. The speaker seems somewhat bored, just walking next to his dog, for whom this walk is much more exciting as his senses can pick up much more. Initially the speaker lets the dog decide the pace, only when it spends too much time inspecting a bush does the speaker step in and a small struggle ensues.

While in the beginning of the poem the speaker claims that he and his dog have little in common other than that they love each other, he later reveals that the dog has taught him an “interest in shit” (l. 14), which for the speaker presumably means the excrement of his dog.

This is further explained in the last stanza in which the dog finally finds a suitable spot to defecate, which signals to both of them that they can go home now.

After arriving at home the speaker sits down to write down this poem with the intention “to show who's master” (l. 24), although it stays unclear whether or not he means the dog or himself.

The Consent

In the poem “The Consent” the speaker wonders what makes all of the ginkgo trees shed their leaves on the same day even though there seems to be no external force to do so.

In the first stanza the speaker comments that all the ginkgo trees in one street have lost their leaves in only one night. Although winter is approaching, the weather is too calm and the temperature still too warm to have caused this.

In the second stanza the speaker is thinking especially about the fact that all of the trees have acted in unison and wonders if the trees has acted voluntarily or if some entity commanded it. He hesitantly seems to decide on the stars and wonders if other races, more importantly humans, are subject to this as well and what this would mean for their agency and purpose.


In the poem “Pockets” the speaker is thinking about the nature of pockets in clothing.

The first aspect about pockets that the speaker comments on is that they are always “over or around erogenous zones” (l. 1-2), as they are usually positioned close to the groin, which the speaker implies is done intentionally by the pockets themselves.

The speaker describes both their main physical and philosophical characteristic is to be “dark places” (l. 4). For one they are physically dark but also states that their nature is dark as they are the perfect cavity for small things that get hidden there for a time, implying a certain shadiness in their disappearance although it is not clear if he blames the pockets or merely sees them as helpers.

In the second part of the poem the speaker changes his tone, stating that he also feels sorry for the pockets as it is their nature to live lonely, which gives them a very sad vibe. He also changes his physical description of them slightly, from a dark hiding place to something very dirty and uncared for.

In the last stanza the speaker philosophizes that even though pockets are no more than holes, as soon as a pocket acquires a hole, it is no longer able to serve its purpose.

To David, About His Education

In the poem “To David, About His Education” the speaker is addressing a child called David, stressing the importance of a school education.

The speaker begins by explaining to David that the world is made up of far more than what the eye can see, naming several abstract (and man made) concepts to measure aspects of the world. Even though the speaker cannot give a reason why they think that acquiring this knowledge is important or what exactly David will be able to do with it, they still stress that David has to put in effort to learn these things.

The speaker considers gaining this knowledge as part of the process of growing up (and it is implied that they have been taught this in exactly the same way, as a fact without any explanation). In the last lines the speaker reveals that learning these concepts is not done to explain the world to humans but to remind them just how big and confusing the world really is and the poem closes with the speaker reminding David that one day it will be his task to explain this importance to other children as well.

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