I tell the dog,
Say it again. And again.
We both know
he heard me
the first time.
I repeat it anyway,
as if he can be taught
to be more like a human—
We who are so divided
that to get our attention
another of our kind
must say our name
over and over
before we listen
before we lift
to meet their eyes
I tell the dog,
even now, when earth is so old,
weary and gray
with her winter-deep ruts
carved by cold, hardening the once warm,
once thick and luscious mud—
in the night, fresh snow fell
and falls still, straight and steady
quiet and lovely as a fairy tale snow
changing the view, altering her contours,
waking her up
not just any dog, because I do know
many lives are hardscrabble or worse.
I want to be my dog, specifically,
with his almost exact life
though not so crowded with thinking,
and not when he has to pee outside
not when he gives in to insatiable urges—
to eat what falls on the floor,
lick any bare feet that wander by,
and certainly not when he sniffs my armpit
as if it is the most exotic perfume.
Nope. Not that dog.
I want to be my dog right now,
5 a.m., already back home from exploring the
fresh pre-dawn air, fed breakfast, told
how handsome I am, cuddled and praised and now
curled up on the couch in the still dark room
for a quick nap before sunrise
comfortable in my fur and muscle, my skin
relaxed, every part of me suffused
with fresh air and love
on the phone
my daughter tells me
she spent the afternoon
with her brother,
not arranged by
me. There’s one.
She asks the name
of the man I went on one
date with and I say,
but that might not be his real name,
more of a motorcycle gang nickname.
And she says,
I can’t tell if you’re joking.
Laughing. There’s another.
after, reach for words—
the same way, in other moods,
you reach for dark chocolate,
or the coziest chair by the fireplace,
or your funniest friends—reach for
Comfort and Joy.
There is a cupboard full of tea and good whiskey,
bread baking, the table set for everyone you like.
In the same way, a stack of poetry books
on the shelf—deceptively thin,
luscious words wait
to pour out into all the rooms in this house
The front door
with its now bedraggled wreath
and though the porch light burned out
a whole box of lightbulbs waits on the shelf
five in the morning dark—
black cat, on errands of her own,
Stops when I open the front door
to let the dog out
I distract him with talk of snow and biscuits
She takes my cue, transforms from black cat statue
to black cat on the move
Because she is a cat, she doesn’t run but
saunters towards the shadows
when it’s gray morning
and you’re late for a meeting
When it’s another day of discovering
moment after moment you are
you and your body made—
that you get to breathe when
the next task is done, or
the one after that.
Time to turn the car radio not
to news not to tinny holiday cheer but to the
Irishman’s poetry podcast.
You see some of the things you hurry past—
That white goat, nosing the frosted grass,
Cows, just as the poet says placid
in that lovely brogue
Off to your left,
with no road leading to it,
weathered, once-red barn
He was young
a bushy beard and an indictment—
a home with small children.
We were called there—
the day flowed by in
voir dire, to speak the truth.
Truth was, the lawyers asked
all the older women—children?
grandchildren? How many? How old?
We were excused,
We were instructed not to speak of it at home,
not to read the news but I wasn’t chosen
so feel free to share my conclusion.
His pale blue dress shirt showed
its straight-from-the-package newness
in the sharp creases
down his long arms, across his back.
After the whole day spent together
in that small room with his not ironed shirt
I do not believe
he was in possession
of a mother or a grandmother.
could have been
if he wasn’t such an excellent driver.
He explains this to us,
at the doctor’s office