Dog Days 2015
The dog hears
some pitched harp
of sound that we can’t hear,
her head cocked toward some bright apse
up there, some star shape
the bent light of her eyes can’t parse.
Who knows what her ears
catch in the spear
of light that raps
against late evening trees. A wide-eyed hare
of heaven? The whispered close of a feathered hasp?
If I Should Die Today
Remember to smile at all dogs
you see out on walks.
Put up wind chimes:
I loved those enough
to come back and move
through them to make
music, in those moments
when I am not
riding invisible in your
car, lightly touching your hand
on the steering wheel.
every day, and if you cannot,
then drink gin. Banish
your guilt as you would
a palmetto bug clinging ugly
to your bathroom wall:
get a shoe, and don’t
hesitate. Seek out
clearings in the woods,
ancient human habitations
on all continents.
When you are cold,
put on your oldest, softest
sweater, and when you
are hot, take everything off.
And when the dark comes,
dream that we are dancing—
all animal grace and body joy,
wearing out our shoes like those
fairy tale princesses—
because it is better to wake up
tired and happy
than well-rested and with no memory
of any other worlds.
Seeing an Ex on the Beach
I saw you walking on the beach.
I saw you walking
on the beach.
response before click
Imagine that space:
Hover there: stay in that
the plug of one meets
Observe the body: feel
how it is: as when caught
in a lie. Terror relief
mimic each other.
The straight flush:
toe to pricked-aware scalp
winding back down to knee give
and back through again, and maybe
until the brain can note the details
that lied him into being:
the gait, yes
the jet hair, yes
the sunglasses we bought together, yes.
The greyhounds: strange, but maybe
the nose: no. Unless the trick of light? No.
The unfamiliar body lines
in the familiar grid of you: confirmation.
Body, still pumping in its current
saying: run, embrace
saying: sift into sand, disappear.
You: stranger, man I loved
for a fierce not-even-second
no awareness at all
as lift your face, smile,
pass the electric
and the dogs follow: nip
then bite the empty air
In the Presence of Large Predators
We’re sure now: wolves have found their way back
here, to the lower peninsula,
first reported by a park ranger
looking north across the Straits, through snow,
uncertainly watching a grey pair
skitter across the ice, their tracks lost
in the storm, then only a few prints
for years, some scat found twenty miles south,
before a night vision camera
catches movement, and the lanky legs,
massive chest and triangular head,
those green eyes glowing once again
here, enter the frame, and even though
we’ve learned our lessons and fear there are
many reasons not to celebrate
anything without reservation,
we listen expectantly, with hope,
for the quiet yip of pups hiding
close to an overgrown two-track road
or look off across the lake, peering
through fog at the far shore to a woods
suddenly transformed into forest,
alive again under fragile light.
Addendum: After the DNA
OK. So they’re coyotes.
Or only the mother
was a wolf.
We have nothing
to worry about.
[Originally in Dunes Review; then in the chapbook The Ancient Murrelet (Alice Greene & Co., 2013)]
We didn’t see but heard
about your eye, all its blood vessels
broken, when you were returned.
Quite the hell dog you must have looked,
with that one red orb in your angel-blonde face.
And then there was your spine,
like a freight train that had crashed,
the vertebrae all higgledy-piggledy
—like a string of boxcars stopped short—
though no one noticed this at first,
owing to your fur and lack of words.
Dragged down a flight of stairs in a crate,
your neat body and precision legs banging
like trash on the way to a garbage can,
you became this new dog, finally: part muscle, part fear.
That first six months, when we said we’d take you in,
you begged us for love you couldn’t accept,
your yelp uncannily like a woman’s wail,
your tail tucked away like something not needed.
And we wondered: What have we done?
But this is the wonder of patience and love:
five years down the road, as I hug my sweetheart,
you muscle between us, looking up at our faces,
your whole body wagging. And I think: This
is what it feels like to be in the presence
of infinite forgiveness.
The Evening of the Day Johnny Carson Died
We were watching clips of old Tonight Shows
and there was Jimmy Stewart, an old man
reading an awful poem he’d written
about his dog that had died,
a dog named Beau. We howled,
“Beau!” “Ha!” What a hoot. His poem
was jammed with rhymes, but buried
in it was a description of his dog at night
lying in the bed between Jimmy and his wife—
both of them old and asleep, until he woke up
to find Beau awake and staring, caught in
“this fear of the dark, of life, of lots of things.”
His voice broke as he read that line.
Staring at our TV—where two dead men
were sitting near each other, one reading
and one listening—we got quiet, like a couple
of dogs in the night that hear something
and look up, cock their heads and listen.