Dingo/Dog Dualisms

*Featured Image by Francesca Domestici. 

*A poem about binary thinking and the chains of rigidity that bind us to them, restricting our freedom to encounter beyond the constructed beyond. For those unfamiliar with Australian wildlife, it may be helpful to know that dingoes and domestic dogs frequently ‘hybridise’, and this has been a contentious issue. In particular, the supposed dilution of the ‘native dingo’ alongside a contrasting view that the dingo did not evolve on the continent, and thus is brought into question as a qualifiable native animal, despite studies showing a strong evolutionary adaptivity between dingoes and other Australian wildlife

Both of these views demonise and illegitimate the dingo in some way, an offensive logic that creates a dingo/dog dualism similar to other binary thinking such as male/female, rational/emotional, mind/body, white/black, etc. As such, the use of the dingo and dog as metaphors for this poem seemed fitting.

“They say you have to take a dog with you when you cross between settlements – in case of dingo”.

– Spoken by an Aboriginal boy who I conversed with in a dream.

Between two places,
They say we cannot go;
Beyond two faces,
We’re not supposed to show.
More here than
Just us,
Yet less here than
Justice –
Tell me, what do we really know?

Take all that you ever knew,
Like a loyal dog, familiar to you.
Hold him tightly by his chain
So he may never cause you pain.
Make it his task to defend against intrusion,
So you may keep safe your Masterful illusion.

But as you cross between those places
And encounter all the different faces,
Clever Dingo lies in wait
To play a trick on his domestic mate.
Dingo lives with many creatures
And learns from these different teachers,
Dingo listens to what each on says
Then embraces hybrid ways.
He says, “Dog, why are you on that chain
And by your Master restricted again?
You cross quickly between these two places,
Snarling at these othered faces,
But they’re not so different to you and me
And everything is better with diversity”.

The Dog he sighed, “I have no choice
But to obey my Master’s voice.
This is how I have been taught to live,
All my loyalty to my Master I give.
Dingo, I am not like you,
I think and do what I am told to”.

At this, Dingo scoffed and laughed,
His domestic friend was being daft.
“Dog, in spirit we are one and the same,
Different, really, only in human name.
Sure, we live in different ways,
And our biologies were born on different days.
But our differences are what make us strong,
Not something to be considered broken or wrong.
The world is bleak in black and white,
But nourishing in colours bright.
You’re in me, and I’m in you,
There’s more to this than we ever knew!
Come on, my friend, slip out of that chain,
Let me introduce you to the world again”.

But although the dog wanted to go,
He hung his head and whispered, “no,
To my loyalty I am bound,
I cannot let my Master down.
Even if I do not agree,
This oppressor’s chain is my sad destiny.
But I will remember the things you have said,
And place them in my Master’s head.
Perhaps in time like seeds they’ll grow
And Dingo wisdom will begin to show,
Blooming like a brilliant flower
Whose scent is sweeter than the Master’s power.
This, Dingo, is my pledge to you,
It’s the best that I can do”.

Dingo smiled and without a sound
Nodded at the chain lying on the ground.
Dog was stunned, it couldn’t be,
He hadn’t noticed that at last he was free!
“Stay with your Master, but by your own choice,
And live by the power of your own special voice;
Snarl less at strangers, instead welcome new friends,
And show your Master clearly where his own knowledge ends.
Crossing between these two empty places
Holds no future, no life, no faces.
Instead, take your Master for walks outside,
You are no longer his possession, but rather his guide”.

With the words of Dingo alive in his heart,
Dog wakes you, his Master, and prepares to depart.
“Dog,” you say, “I feel different today,
Why don’t we try walking another way?”
So excited is Dog by your words
That he runs around barking, startling the birds.
With a lighter step than ever before,
You and Dog close up your old door
And set out afresh to see who you might find,
Not noticing you’ve left the dog’s chain behind.


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