When to Say Goodbye
If all goes well it will never happen.
The dry grass in the shade whispers
while the vines crunch underfoot,
releasing a bitter odor. A year ago
I led my dog to his death, the third
in five years. How such counting
precedes affection, dwindles ever
so slowly, one star winking out after
another, till only the morning gray
hangs above us, solemn, indefinite.
Voiceless. If I could cock my head
to howl, who would understand? Not
one dog or three, neither mother nor
mentor, not my friend’s sister nor her
father and his nephews, the two boys
belted safely in the back seat. No.
I walk downhill and closer to the creek,
where the vines are still green.
In the shade of a large cedar, a turtle
slips into the water and eases away.
“When to Say Goodbye,” drafted during the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge, was published by Oxidant | Engine in May 2017, and subsequently nominated for a Best of the Net 2017 award.