What Music Should Accompany This
If there was a score to those years,
it was the somber percussion
of feed in a bucket, how we would
shake grain to call the cows, chickens,
kibble to call the dogs, call voicelessly
whatever would come. We spoke softly.
We knew shouting and chasing
what you want doesn’t work. We always
had something to say
and never needed to talk about ourselves.
Look, she’s hungry. She wants more.
Watch the funny way she does that.
Don’t you love it? I didn’t want dogs,
but there the strays were, in the ditches,
on the doormat. I let them in.
And so a life makes itself, awhile.
She wants to be kept forever.
I thought I would live in such a way,
walking about my small chores
in the stretching evening, forever.
It is not only strays who are disappointed.
A person may be kind and still possess
the command that means she will be
the one who decides to leave.
Even if it feels like all she has
is what finds her by chance, lingers by choice,
her companionship a woods’ cove
some happen into. The score to that time,
a common contentment that came with no tags
and went unnamed, was the hushed beat
of dogs’ feet on dirt, walking with us.
I used them, then, as symbols of how well
I could care for another, though they were becoming
the images of all I would give up,
what I would cry out about missing.
As if those lives had wandered away from me
and I was the one who would run for days
on a scent-memory toward
an end to which I thought I was bound. But toward —
that isn’t truly the movement that plays
over in my mind. When the dogs were
happiest, they did not need to be touched,
and no more affection than had been given.
Those were the days when I succeeded
in making love certain. They’d step ahead,
or sit at an angle, however slightly, away.about the author