I count out the dog’s pills — one for pain,
one for swelling, five to oil those scraping joints —
a rosary I pray will go on forever. I believe
I am staving off the inevitable. He follows me
from room to room, hauling his aching bones
up and down the stairs, unwilling or afraid
to let me out of his sight. What was muscle
and sheen is now a jagged cage of ribs that cradles
a murmuring heart, and so I praise him
every five minutes, rub his ears the way
that makes him sigh with pleasure, try to make
each walk an extravaganza of smelling and peeing.
But outside he lunges at other dogs, goes
for garbage and dead things, and I am
forever yanking on his leash, snapping,
Leave it, and, No — always no. I grudge
him the time and the tedium of his needs.
These days run me through, and the end
will come too soon. He’s looking at me now,
all brown-eyed, stupid adoration,
as if the attention I spare him is enough,
as if his love for me did not keep score.
He knows it’s time. He knows
I’m taking him to the park he likes best.
I Say I Want The World To Look Like Poetry Again
— for Rebecca Ring
and the world serves up a gull with a broken wing,
pacing the beach at sundown. The woman to my left says,
Years ago a ranger came out and broke a gull’s neck
so the coyotes wouldn’t get it, says, It was the kindest thing.
This gull ignores the piece of pretzel she throws at it,
hauling the overwrought metaphor of its twisted gray wing
down the beach toward the shimmering RVs. I am hoping
someone else knows what to do as the flies begin biting
my ankles, wave after wave, until it starts to feel personal.
But then the family to my right starts shouting,
and the father, who has sat like a monolith in his lawn chair
the entire afternoon, raises a giant stone arm to point
into the middle distance, and we see the pod of humpbacks
surfacing and blowing — majesty and joy in the salute
of their great flukes as they submerge and rise —
and it’s like some mythical creature (think unicorn or phoenix)
appeared and sat beside us as if it were no strange thing at all.
We squint at the bright water, and then one smaller, brown head
rises above the waves, and then another, and I remember
the sign at the beach entrance saying not to swim near the seals
because sharks feed on them, and I am pretty sure, after the gull,
that the world has a shark up its sleeve, but for half an hour
the seals pop up like prairie dogs, for half an hour the seals are
just seals, and maybe down the beach someone has figured out
how to save the gull, or maybe a ranger has put it out of its misery,
and the family on my right turns and asks, Is it like this always?
It’s my first time, too, I tell them. So far it happens every day.