Ode to the Quick Brown Fox

We knew dog. We knew to love
lop ears and slow bounding after
tennis balls in the park. Wasn’t a fox
trying to trick the Three Little Pigs?
Over and over you jumped,
quick despite our slow, wavering letters.
We thought all foxes were orange,
nefarious thieves. You who curled around our
pencils, napping in the slatted sunlight,
your brown coat shedding words down the page:
A quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
A quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
A quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
On the playground, we took turns lying
flat on the earth while the other
pretended to be you, leaping up, up
into the coming air. A century after
America’s freedom you bounded from
The Boston Journal over the family dogs,
the terriers, the Labradors, the dachshunds,
ineffable in your brown coat,
your slender, imagined paws
black as burnt matchsticks. You were the first
to walk the tightrope line of the red
telephone into Russia, and the translators responded:
What does it mean when your people say
”The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog?”

Though shorter pangrams are
more impressive, the public have taken to
calling you the quick brown fox.
We are sentimental creatures, learning
to love in the language of the specific.

KIMBERLY KEMLER’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Hampden-Sydney Review, Salamander, CutBank, and elsewhere. She currently lives in Baltimore, where she attends the MFA program at Johns Hopkins University.