27 June 2018
A Call from Home
When I get home I’ll see you there through the entry window
Near the center of the floor, sleep-watching the stairs
On watch for blurs through your cloudy cataracts
On watch for me in your dreams.
Have I gone on one of those day-long rides in your car?
Why didn’t I take you along.
Or am I upstairs in bed.
When will I come down and carry you up.
Where will I be
When you have finally left us.
Have I grown dependent on your attachments?
When I open the door
You don’t seem to hear it creaking.
Now you sense that someone is here.
You turn to me as my shadow covers you
Just before my hand reaches your gentle head.
There is water in the boat.
I’ll find what remains of breakfast in your dish
Shrunken and stiffened from the long dry day.
I clean it out, drop fresh dinner in
Fold in the bitter pills that dull your pain.
I bring it to you and you seem—interested.
You taste—you recognize the pill.
It all falls from your mouth.
You are betrayed.
Water in the boat.
Carolyn called me from home today, to warn me
Our time together is ending. We will have
To cut you out of our chests soon
Lacerate the bleeding, fibrous soul
To liberate you from your pain.
The invasive procedure will not spare the children.
One feared dogs so we came to you, you—
Gentle with age.
Now she loves you, but now she must learn
The most terrible thing about dogs.
My hands cannot do this.
I look for the athletic wrap that has fallen from your foot, or
Removed by a child’s compassion.
You follow me faithfully, dragging your hind legs.
They catch on tables and chairs, pull up rugs.
The things that cannot be expressed: you have taught me
Those are the things that must be said; and the words
Tumble like drunkards out of an upended box.
I find the elastic: torn, soiled, softened with wear
Coil it around the thin, arthritic foot.
Where am I now so far from you?
The words that stain the page
Swim in the sea of my blind eyes. The water is cold.
I leave the words to drown. We must walk.
After supper I’ll harness you up
Tighten the axle-bolts on your cart, and lower you in.
You pull forward and the wheels turn
But you refuse to roll beyond the porch
Turning your contraption back to the door.
You can be so stubborn. I beg you.
There is no magic in my words when I plead
Go for a walk? Your ears do not spring up.
Can you hear me girl? Does it hurt?
When we first met, you were a hip condition.
I might’ve dodged you for that, but Carolyn
She wanted you all the more for it.
Why did you believe in me. I cannot see.
Living the life of a dream
I can see the great sleeping torrent before me
Feel it under me, hear it trail behind the oars.
The shores roll forward slow in the outer corner of each eye
Drifting backward, helpless against that Almighty Flow.
I see you there, far upriver, on a world of water
Running free, leash trailing behind
In eager pursuit of some cottontail or squirrel
Too small, too remote for these eyes.
I hear the echoes of my scolding over the waters
Mimi get back here.
Come back girl.
The oars pull against the Flow. My hands remember
The intimate tension of a tug on the leash.
Does the great Water feel the oar.
My hands can almost feel you.
I still see your young eyes over the surface,
Sharp, deep with light; flaming amber in the sun.
I know that soon I will not. I am afraid to blink. I must row.
I tell myself that I know you will still be there
Far upriver when I can no longer see you
But that comfort it whispers despair.
Water in the boat.
It flows cold in my shoes, violates the thighs
Fills the chest, makes the throat a hose
To the eyes; I dare not stop the flood
Fearing that when it ebbs
You will be gone.
10 August 2018
Standing alone in the fenced grassland of a place you loved
I am talking to you.
Do you think of us, girl
somewhere up there in the fibers of space-time.
Praying that Einstein was right, I pray to you
Heart of my world
That you are there, still running across the yellow summer grass
At the apex of your joy, ever faithful that I am not far behind.
For years on years, morning did not begin with the sun
But with a scratching on the footboard as you stirred
Your weight and your warmth at our feet
Then that low whisper of a whine that grew gently
From your slight exhalations. For a lifetime it seems
That was our call to rise.
Without it, how can the day begin.
An emptiness at the foot of the bed now
An utter lack of presence that could never be
Had you not once come to us.
The whole world would have been quite fine without you
Dear girl, but now having known you it grieves
Crowded with ghosts
A haunting for every lost little routine.
I throw a pillow over my feet
And trick myself to sleep.
The trail snakes down the hillside before me
And I can almost feel you at my side
How you loved the chase. Once I let you off leash here
And you spotted the pigs, and to my terror you charged
You ran beside them through the dry oak wood.
Was it the hunt primeval, dear girl, or sport
Or had you found them: your flock
On the green hills of Argyll?
I unfasten your leash from your collar and you start
Your wandering communion about the hilltop,
Inhaling the landscape
Of a world where I stand blind.
I begin down the trail a distance, stop, and turn
Let you explore your world of scent and breeze
Wait for you to notice that I am no longer at your side
So that you may return to me.
How many times now I’ve turned, girl, needing
To see you there, anxious to see me.
Pulling your collar out of my pocket
When it jingles you appear.
It carries your scent.
I inhale you deeply to bring you home.
It hurts to remember. I’m afraid to forget
Even to die. It is all betrayal.
There is no remembering in death
And you must not be forgotten.
And you, you must remember, girl
but no: it is not so well.
You must also forget.
The Back Lawn at Night
But I do not. I stubbornly sit on the unlit patio
Gaping into the darkness of your grassy daybed
Banded along its edge with green light
From the closed kitchen blinds.
I feel you there where there is no light, and me there with you.
I rub your back, your shoulders, your ribs and belly.
I know all of your skin tags.
I inhale the warm perfume of your fur.
I wrap my fingers round one hind leg and work slowly down.
It is all bone and fur from disease.
Here it broadens into a paw, and here your rough,
Warm and tender pads.
I tighten my grasp.
I give your snout and brow a firm rubbing and gently stroke your delicate ears
I scratch the nape of your neck, and deeply
You push back against my hand to help me dig a little deeper.
You always demanded a strong massage. Was it the pain.
I scratch just below your ribcage.
The ledge there has always wanted a little rubbing.
I scratch and rub the ribs under each arm.
Your arthritic little legs kick away to partake in the scratching.
We scratch together girl for a little while more
Until the numbness robs you of the reflex.
When we come home now
We can feel you waiting alone behind the door
Its squeak in harmony with the jingle of your tags.
When the door opens there is nothing but an overpowering void.
I walk back and look out the back door, yearning
For your impossible presence, to see you
Stretched out on the grass.
Where are you, girl? I shake your collar
the tags jingle to bring you home.
I know there is no return, but there are
Many loveless, hungry strays.
I know, but I cannot. Perhaps some day
I would commune with you, dear girl
Through the canine castaways of this brutal place.
When I do, Will you meet me there? Tell me.
For once I need you to speak to me, or
Just let me stroke your ears again.