When to Say Goodbye (with recording)

dried

 

 

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.

 

Chili, Chocolate and Chihuahuas

image

Chili, Chocolate and Chihuahuas

I am comfortably nestled in this house, sorting the pages of an unruly poetry manuscript in the company of Apollonia, the six-pound terror of Texas, and Ozymandias, her doting, but worried, twelve-pound shadow. As noon departs I note hunger’s first tentative touch, and head to the grocery store for supplies. I’m craving chili, but not having a particular recipe in mind, decide to see what strikes my fancy.

Ah, the sun at last!
No more rain, the yard’s drying.
Our dogs, shivering.

For my chili base I’ll sometimes toast dried ancho peppers, rehydrate and puree them, but I’ve recently replenished my chile powder stock (ancho, chipotle, New Mexico, cayenne, smoked paprika) and feel just a tad lazy, so I’ll use the powdered stuff. But I pick up a poblano, some jalapeños and two onions, and on my way to the meat counter, grab a 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes and some spiced tomato sauce. I examine the beef and nothing entices me (ground beef is anathema, and don’t even mention beans!), but a few paces away I spy a small pork roast, and place it in my cart alongside a 16-oz bottle of Shiner Bock and a bag of chocolate chips.

Knowing my plans, the
cashier smiles and shakes her head.
Milk chocolate chips?

Shuffling the manuscript pages, I ask the dogs for their input, but Apollonia declines, preferring to nap in a sunbeam, and Ozzie is too busy pacing to bother with poetry. So I turn to the impending dinner, chop onion, dice peppers, mince garlic, measure out the various chile powders, cumin and oregano, cube the pork, and brown it in the Dutch oven.

Ozymandias
sits by the front door and moans.
Wind rattles the house.

Once the meat is seared, I saute the veggies, dump in the canned tomatoes and chile powder mixture, add the meat, coating it with the spices, and then pour in the Shiner Bock and heat it all to a near-boil before reducing the temperature and allowing it to simmer for an hour, at which point I stir in about four ounces of the chocolate chips and a teaspoon of garam masala. I let the chili simmer for another hour, then remove half of the pork, shred it with a fork (it’s very tender), and return it to the pot, stir, taste, and add a little salt. Done. I ladle out a bowl, pour a La Frontera IPA, and eat. Not bad, I think. Not bad at all for the first chili of the season.

Beer in hand, I burp,
the dogs stirring underfoot.
Oh, this wondrous world!



* * *

I first posted this in December 2015. The recent snowfall and frigid weather is making me think about chili. Mmmmm.

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Memorial Day


Memorial Day

Arriving at this point
without knowledge of the journey,

the slow collapse and internal
dampening – the shutting down, the closing in – lost

in the shadowed veil, my eyes flutter open to find
everything in its place, yet

altered, as if viewed from a single step
closer at a different height, offering a disturbing

clarity. Looking up, I wonder that she wakes me
from a dream of dogs on this, of all days,

only to detect under me linoleum in place of the bed,
my glasses skewed from the impact,

the floor and left side of my head wet. You looked
like you were reaching for something
, she says,

and perhaps I was, though with hand outstretched
I found nothing to hold but the darkness.

 

 

“Memorial Day” was first published in Eclectica in July 2014, and was, much to my delight, subsequently included in Eclectica Magazine’s 20th Anniversary Best Poetry Anthology.

Jackboy’s Lament

Jackboy’s Lament

We define ourselves in movement,
in the uncertain light and forms

shuddering by: fences, the nameless
wave, odors, dark water.

Look at the hills, their lines stretched taut like
smiles, or voices torn from the earth.

Or the creek below us – how its mouth never closes
yet nothing emerges but a shadow

on the wind. Two questions arise,
leaving only the abandoned to consider.

In our solitude, only my self is missing.

 

“Jackboy’s Lament” made its first appearance here in October 2015. I started the poem about a dozen years ago, after a drive through the Texas hill country with Jackboy the cattledog, who was quite the philosopher and humorist. This is what emerged after several conversations and much reflection over his circumstances (abused, abandoned, rescued). Jack didn’t talk much, but he thought. Oh, how he thought.

vultures

 

Buddha’s Not Talking

 

 

Buddha’s Not Talking

 

He looks out from the shelf while I consider
manure, sharp knives and the hagfish’s second
heart, or whether odors differ in texture when a dog

retraces his steps through the park, and do they really
lose themselves or just quickly shed their pasts,
forever moving towards now. Sometimes I say hello,

but truthfully we seldom interact, unless I bump his
shoulder when retrieving one of the books leaning
against him, and then it’s only a quick “sorry” on my

part, and a stare on his, perhaps a slight nod if
I’ve not yet had coffee. I fear I’ll never grasp
the difference in having and being, that my true

nature has splattered on a trail and the dogs will
sniff it and lift their legs in acknowledgment,
or perhaps acceptance of the infinite, with wisdom

far beyond my reach, before moving on to disquisitions
about soil and fragrance and the need to justify art
with decimal points. Yesterday I roasted chicken, moved

books, sipped ale. Today I’ll sweep, discard papers and
wonder if I’ll become what I think, whether reincarnation
will be cruel or kind. Either way, Buddha’s not talking.

 

* * *

“Buddha’s Not Talking” first appeared in July 2017 at Blue Bonnet Review.
With gratitude to editor Cristina Del Canto for taking this piece.

Mother’s Day (with recording)

Mother’s Day

The dog is my shadow and I fear his loss. My loss.
I cook for him daily, in hope of retaining him.

Each regret is a thread woven around the oak’s branches.
Each day lived is one less to live.

Soon the rabbits will be safe, and the squirrels.
As if they were not. One morning

I’ll greet an empty space and walk alone,
toss the ball into the yard, where it will remain.

It is Mother’s Day.
Why did I not weep at my mother’s grave?

I unravel the threads and place them around the dog.
The wind carries them aloft.

“Mother’s Day” was published in The Lake in July 2016, and last appeared here in May 2018.

Some Dogs Are Larger Than Others

ozzy


Some Dogs are Larger Than Others

How he stares
at you,

relentless
in his desire,

offering
belly to scratch

and head to pet
just when you most

need them,
even if

you don’t know it,
then curling

against you, saying
in the language

of warmth and fur,
this, just this.

* * *

“Some Dogs are Larger Than Others” first appeared here in January 2017.