When to Say Goodbye

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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.

Recording of “Mother’s Day”

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 subsequently appeared here in May 2017.

Jackboy’s Pride

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Abused, abandoned and left to die of thirst or predation almost sixteen years ago on a largely uninhabited county road terminating at our rural property’s entrance, Jackboy brought much laughter and comfort to our household. Tireless shadow, friend, writing partner, loyal companion and protector, he was, and will remain forever, a good boy – in his estimation, the highest possible praise. Nearly four years have passed. We miss him.

Jackboy’s Pride

Through patience,
recognition eases in: the patterns

of repetition and praise
and joy in task. The orange ball. A scorpion’s

tail. How we delight in sharing each
victory. And with the breeze

runs other unspoken tales – a neighbor’s
cruelty, bones, the pregnant raccoon

lumbering through the cedars. But nothing
deters the jump and the following drop.

He nips heels where none exist. We follow.

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Forever

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Forever

Our dogs hide under the bed,
escaping thunder.

But the sun shatters
a cloud and I know

we will live forever.
Each hour is the sky,

every day, another
star. Now the trees

join the wind
in rejoicing. This

is what we make,
they say. Only this.

* * *

“Forever” made its last appearance here in July 2016.

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Some Dogs Are Larger Than Others

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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.

Recording of “Shadow”

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Shadow

walking,
crushing juniper berries
at dusk

the dog shadows me
in his absence

* * *

“Shadow” first appeared here in April, 2015. It could be considered a companion piece to “Mother’s Day,” which is included in the July 2016 edition of The Lake.

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Music: “Thunderbird” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Shadow

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Shadow

walking,
crushing juniper berries
at dusk

the dog shadows me
in his absence

* * *

“Shadow” first appeared here in April, 2015. It could be considered a companion piece to “Mother’s Day,” which is included in the July 2016 edition of The Lake.

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