What Music Should Accompany This

Rose McLarney

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.

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