this poem is not about a dog

but you wouldn’t know the pain

when suddenly you can’t look me in the eyes         

long gone sunday walks              so few             as if  there

ever was the forest                 but

i tried to help you explore

the best I could.              soft hair,

all those times i cried             you kissed me  & i believed

there was concern                              a gentle lapping

quiet naps                   we were rarely alone            only in afternoons

i held you in sleep,   long hours          & now             you fear touch            

too human to ever cry.                              

the walls covered with mosquitos & darkened windows,

i wanted you to walk              & you reply  i hate walks 

& then             you started taking them daily            on your own

as if                          i hadn’t spoken.                            you told me yesterday

            you actually like the sun         not when you’re waking

but in the middle of the day               in moments      if you were awake.

rarely you were,

but when you were,

sometimes you’d laugh, sometimes you were happy.

yesterday        when you finally let me see you          you were fixing the roof

&  i remembered        the times when the rain poured  down upon us

inside the small shack         & we threw towels around us     used cups

to collect rain      like tears      sifting around on the mattress   

& holding the other in the dry spots              quickly falling back asleep.    

sleep was your haven             so much of your space

we did not often see the sun              or cherish a lot of days we had       

           nights were long & we often sat        in darkness     until sunrise

chickens clucking        & pass out in a lump of ourselves      stained booze &

       drunk sex                                it wasn’t a game

that i cared          it wasn’t a game         that maybe we learned something       

but we loved games we played them together all the time.


small moves, & sometimes I think      neither of us won.

the night of the fight                          a dog fight       some small attack

            i was already wounded                       survival came easy

over & over you asked me to stay     you wanted me to stay     

it was the first time i felt like you really wanted me to stay.     

            despite my wound                             the blood in the bathtub   

& still streaking down my leg for hours                       i picked you up

            after you fell backwards                                 face up

on the porch                            & i said that night i couldn’t stay.

i came back                 a thousand times    sat on the porch

           you’d disappear & come back a thousand times

such a magician like that

but this was not a game

a thousand times you were almost gone       but we were there, again   

in a dark room with covered windows

curtains you picked & hung with meticulous fashion

we both had bad eyes, & we’d joke about that sometimes

i was trying to look out for you,

   but our bad eyes couldn’t see,

our hearts couldn’t feel that it was scary

our bodies couldn’t tell us         that if we kept biting, in the dark, eventually

we’d hurt each other.              

            i took your dog to the woods             a season later             for three

days we walked quietly                       we were very happy

it was christmas, me & your dog & a beautiful, quiet christmas.

                                                i realize now              

this was your way of saying goodbye      you gave me your dog

            for three days             in the woods              

the quiet surrounded us                     & i knew          you’d leave by spring. 

            i will throw every stick            i’ve collected now      

you may try to bring them back & i’d probably take them, again .

from you, it is still true, it was never a game,

i’d probably take anything i could get.                    

         for now, may you carry each stick      

far beyond the fenced corner of the yard

behind the bone of possum,                                  dead babies of our past

            build yourself a fire

build yourself a real house,                         small & neat     

sleep with peace & not paralysis

may you someday chose to bet. not to fold,

it is not a game.

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