Is that all there is to a six-legged dog?


poem is on sign


County Fair

by Charles Simic



If you didn’t see the six-legged dog,

It doesn’t matter.

We did, and he mostly lay in the corner.

As for the extra legs,


One got used to them quickly

And thought of other things.

Like, what a cold, dark night

To be out at the fair.


Then the keeper threw a stick

And the dog went after it

On four legs, the other two flapping behind,

Which made one girl shriek with laughter.


She was drunk and so was the man

Who kept kissing her neck.

The dog got the stick and looked back at us.

And that was the whole show.



Anyone else hearing strains of Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?” For the uninitiated (please initiate yourselves!—this is one of the greatest songs ever) here’s the first verse:


I remember when I was a very little girl, our house caught on fire

I’ll never forget the look on my father’s face as he gathered me up

in his arms and raced through the burning building out to the pavement

I stood there shivering in my pajamas and watched the whole world go up in flames

And when it was all over I said to myself, is that all there is to a fire


Is that all there is, is that all there is

If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing

Let’s break out the booze and have a ball

If that’s all there is



(You really have to hear the song in Lee’s jaded, on-my-fourth-martini voice to get it. No surprise that the song has old world roots—link here for the Thomas Mann connection.)


“County Fair” is similarly blasé. The six-legged dog, the drunk girl, the amorous man, all fail to impress the speaker. But where Lee goes to, eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!, Simic’s speaker stays listless, bored and depressed to the end. You get the feeling he’s seen many horrors and knows how to survive them.


One got used to them quickly

And thought of other things.



It’s one way to get through the pandemic, I guess.



Here’s Simic’s bio from a previous post:


Charles Simic was born in Yugoslavia in 1938.  During WWII, his family was evacuated from place to place to escape bombing.  “My travel agents were Hitler and Stalin,” he jokes.  His father left to find work in Italy and was imprisoned instead.  After the war Simic and his mother and brother were briefly imprisoned by Communist authorities.  Eventually they were able to leave Yugoslavia for Paris, then New York, where the family was reunited with Simic’s father after ten years. Simic took night classes in Chicago and then moved to New York where he worked a number of odd jobs.  He served in the army in the early sixties, and arriving back in New York, earned a degree from New York University.


Simic has taught at the University of New Hampshire for nearly forty years.  He was named the Poet Laureate of the United States in 2007, won the Pulitzer Prize, and received a MacArthur Genius Grant, and remains one of our most popular American poets with readers and critics alike.  Quite a feat for a poet who didn’t speak English till he was fifteen.


NOTE:  Don’t forget the Poem Elf collaborative project! Taking entries now through mid-May at






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