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2005

 there are all sorts of life in strife:
 at the giant grocery store
 there are among the banded and resigned lobsters
 one whose claws remain in tension and 
 his stick-like antennae are in the up-raised position
 there is a blackbird crossing the aisles
 from dairy to bread
 desperate to find his way out
 at home
 there is my dog struggling up the stairs
 nervous as that self-same bird criss-crossing the 
grocery aisles
2006
 there was no dog this winter
 there was no slipping on the ice
 there was no ice stuck between her pads
 no crashing across the hard-froze top of the night-old 
snow
 there was not the black warmth of my long-time dog
 nor cold nose
 nor laying in snow as i charged up my bike
 no extra chicken necks and extra-pained hips
 no pattering, no hesitating in the ice-slick foyer tile
 no silent pain from my ever-silent dog
 whose every claw clench on the hard-froze sent shocks 
into her hips
 and she
 not a word
 and she
 not a tear
 and she
 walked off not
 she did not abandon
 she did not retreat to an under-tree to die
 she lay under the glass desk
 her chin on my feet,  said
you know the medicines are insufficient …
you know it is my soiling the bed
 and i, i am so ashamed, please forgive me
 but i do enjoy the window while you at 
work
and the stairs are full of scares
 for i see only dimly now 
 and the depths are not defined and my 
eyes, well, they trick me
 “and i wish i could lead dog like i did
 in williamsburg woods biking at night 
between the traps
 in the lone tree woods with sadie and her 
blue-heeler through nettles
 in the mayfair woods through the heather 
and duck muck
 and Old Rag where i would tear, chase any 
bear from you
 at the Sods where the dirt waller was so 
dry and dust
 in Winchester where the flowers were 
jump over-my-head
 “and you said you’d be burned to ash
 and i ask for me the same
 “you said ‘spread me at Kearsarge’
 i ask for mine the same, with yours, in the 
same gust
 so we may venture the peaks together
 sleep with many-hands horses, with 
wolves and swim in ice
 there were no dog beds and foam-this and padded-that 
for your prominent bones
 no heated blankets scattered about the bed and 
living rooms
 there was no holding of your firm paws
 no kissing of your velvet muzzle and asian eyes
 there were no handshakes
 no gentle clenching your teeth on my hand at arrival 
home
 or arrival of grandmother or other friends
 no mixing the meals and the medicines, no x-rays 
and needles, no massage or chinese herbs
 no swimming in harness with the shake until your 
tail
 there was not your sitting ‘midst the din of my 
drumming
 no you long-sitting beside the crash-boom-bang
 as you did, as if it made you happy for you 
always smiled then
 remember when
 i used to kick the drums over after each session?
 i yelled driving you into the corner puppy you for 
eating the tops off my combat boots?
 you ran behind my beach bike, off-lead at only 
months-old along the road to Virginia’s house?
 and you should have died
 and i should have been shamed
 and what a fool i was, for i did not know 
what i would have lost
 i swore like filth and fury and you to corner 
gone, thinking yourself at fault?
 and i am so inadequate to understanding you my dog
 with you i am over my head
 and i need the help of our friends to see you 
 for as cataracts came over your eyes
 so are the same cataracts over those mine these 
many years
 and i struggle to understand all those about 
whom
 i am usually wrong
 in my life
 like you, my magic dog
 who even in your goneness left 
packages for the unwrapping
 and i wish i could have taken the plaques 
from your back
 wish i could have straightened your 
spine and splinted your shifty hips
 and just held everything in place
 as you did me from the moment 
we met
 would that i could learn your dignity
 that i could carry myself as did you
 that i had at last learned when to snap 
and when to smile
 and when to wheel all teeth 
 and kneel all belly
 and when to sit my violence 
down
 and when to stand up 
 and when to bristle and ridge my back 
and hear threats at night
 and know how to shake hands with my 
teeth
 and teeth-grab young’uns with no 

breaking of the skin

 

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