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.


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

  1. Good one to read again … this time I’m zeroing in on the desire to howl whether or not anyone listens-let-alone-understands … yet equally drawn to the turtle’s model, slipping into water swirling all around w/o any howl, w/o resisting what-is. (Thank you for this level-set.)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Heartbreaking, Robert. I feel like I want to howl too—the loss of a pet is too much, and I only recently began to feel grief after many years. A very evocative and powerful piece, the imagery of nature cements that desire to be alone yet understood through one’s pain.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Long ago, I told myself – no more pets. I’ve had enough loss. Then I moved in with a border collie and watched her age. Again I say no to pets. I’ve had enough loss. Who knows when this turtle will show his head, again.

    Liked by 1 person

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