Skip to main content

Pavlov's Dogs Make an Appearance in an Instance of Operant Conditioning, a poem by Rebecca Longenecker

Pavlov’s Dogs Make an Appearance in an Instance of Operant Conditioning

by Rebecca Longenecker

In a dream I am walking east on 38th Street,
alone, no cars on the road, no one on the sidewalk, no one walking or drinking
indiscreetly, no one asking for money at BP, but there are dogs sleeping in the median.
I step off the sidewalk, cross two lanes to them:
all golden coated and well-groomed. They look soft, I think, and kneel down, to touch.

Next to me in bed, you are deeply asleep,
unnaturally peaceful. I search your face for signs of your waking self.
There is one long crease dividing your forehead into North and South,
marking the middle, and I struggle through the sheets
to touch its smooth, sleep form. Your skin looks soft, I think and reach for you.

I stretch out my hand, and just
at the moment of contact, the mutt wakes up,
barks and bares its teeth. I bolt upright, out of sleep.
Your eyes open on me, and quickly
I withdraw my hand. 

Bio: Rebecca Longenecker is a born-and-raised Mennonite: the descendant of farmers, missionaries, conscientious objectors, and an unwavering commitment to non-violence. She is a recent graduate of Eastern Mennonite University, where she studied English Language and Literature and dedicated herself to the craft of writing. She lives in Indianapolis, where she works as a copywriter and editor. She enjoys cooking, candle-making, reading, and writing poetry.