Poetry: Dog Days 2022
Someone Just Like You
Have you ever met someone
who reminded you of yourself?
Is this world large enough to
house someone that is just like you?
Would this person be as mean
and cold just like you could be?
Would this person be kind at
heart like you could be sometimes?
Is it too much to ask for?
I think I would rather have a dog,
who could guard the door and keep
my doppelgänger away from me.
Jim Moore, 3 poems from Prognosis (Graywolf Press, 2021)
The Pandemic Halo
The pandemic halo began to appear a few weeks into it.
Oddly, the first time, it was surrounding the head
of an old lab. He was being walked, as usual, at 7 a.m.
by his young owner. Lots of lamppost stops. There it was:
faint at first, then hovering at a tilt above the silky head.
I thought maybe it was a weird trick of light—the day
was bright—but the next morning it was still there.
That same day, the nurse who wears a pink cape and parks
in the lot across from me, almost always empty now, was trotting along
on her way to the clinic that is just below my window. She had it, too.
I don’t think she noticed it at all. She was walking quickly, a little late
to work, so I think that was on her mind, not holiness.
The third day a young man in a red cap with a backpack slouched past.
I had never seen him before. You could see he was seriously depressed,
looking down at the sidewalk. But it was there, firmly in place.
It was above him, of course; he couldn’t see how beautiful
he really was. That woman with the nasty little dog: same thing.
By now the pandemic halo is well recorded. Everyone knows about it.
We almost take it for granted, what had once seemed amazing.
Somehow it is related to breath. When we die it goes away.
After the pandemic is over they say the halo effect will disappear.
They say we will return to life as usual. We won’t need it,
they say. I have my doubts. I think we might need it more than ever.
I think we might be saying things like, “Remember how amazing it was
during the pandemic, how everyone had a halo, how grief and holiness were all
we knew of the world and the sight of a dog at a lamppost could bring us to tears?”
A lit cross in last light, shining down
from somewhere far away, the smell of pigs
being pigs. There was a situation to which
they all belonged, not entirely clear, but theirs,
and they pretended to be grown-up about it,
but really, it allowed for no relief.
At some point,
since he was the oldest, he stood and the others
followed suit. Outside, the new dog
half-heartedly chased the cat,
then stopped to bark at the people one by one
as they stepped into the darkness,
just fallen. The man went off by himself,
behind the house, where a small contingent
of fireflies had begun to light the way.
He loved his people and they loved him.
Hopeless situations had become his specialty:
how to reveal them to those for whom hope
remained a way forward. He returned
and brought them news of the fireflies,
how they give the darkness a shape,
like a sieve of stars, a few feet above earth,
through which darkness pours. It is hardly
a consolation, but it is all he has to offer,
a slurry of small pulsing lights in tall grass
at dusk. Call it beauty and you wouldn’t be wrong.
Of course, beauty in and of itself
has never been enough. Ridiculous
to speak of fireflies and tall grasses at such a time.
The situation calls for more than he can give.
The sweet dog barks and barks. It is her way of being kind.
Things That Keep Me From Forgetting Who I Am:
That was a different time. Fifteen, in love for the first time, running down the street at midnight from her house to mine.
The farmer and I greet each other on the empty road and smile because why not?
The new leaves in spring are singing, “I did it my way.”
And now the little night boat. Leaning over the star railing, I make a wish that I love like a man who knows how to sail.
I have Giotto’s six beautiful faces in the Uffizi. And I have this moment lying with you in bed, our faces so close they make a world, and I have Lake Trasimeno seen from the train window, blue and gray and a weedy green, colors not to be believed. No, not to be believed. And yet, here they are.
That man with the two nervous greyhounds who walks them late at night—such beautiful creatures, like willow trees given legs—is tonight walking them under the newest of long silver greyhound moons. Two greyhounds under the new moon, trembling.
In Winter the Past Catches Up to You,
a patch of ice grabbing your feet,
air so cold it glitters. Each year
you learn this again, how fog
in the branches of fir trees
wavers ghostlike and calls your name.
Sometimes the ghosts are welcome,
a good haunting, the trees holding out
shaggy arms like grandmothers.
The wind sings a sad tune, not a dirge
but a lullaby. You think of Chopin:
“I tell my piano the things I used to tell you.”
Some winter days the puddles
are the puddles you stomped in
when you were small. Your brother
walked in front of you,
the brown and white dog at his heels.
Your boots were new.
Everything was possible.
The Pond of Sleep
I take my old dog
for a late walk,
lock the front door,
check the back,
brush my teeth. I lift
the dog onto the bed
and climb in beside him,
pick up my book
and hold it with both hands
as if to steer my way
through the plot.
The dog snores. Now
the words in the book
are stones in a pond,
glimmering through green.
My grip goes slack.
I set the book
down, find the string
for the lamp,
turn on the dark.
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