When to Say Goodbye (with recording)




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.


14 thoughts on “When to Say Goodbye (with recording)

  1. Difficult to read … more so to listen to … but life is just that (difficult) at times. Life, like the turtle, slips away … leaving us staring into absence.
    (Our 16-yr-old cat declines before our eyes … serious enough that the vet suggested we “not stress her with annual vaccinations” … I don’t think I could do what your poem implies, but such might be the kindest.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Robert. I saved reading this till today, when I’m just back from the funeral of a dear friend and mum-in-law. Human or other animal, life feels like a succession of goodbyes. Knowing it doesn’t make them easier. Beautiful words.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to robert okaji Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.