COMING WHEN CALLED
I’m trying to write a poem tonight but
I’m not having much success. Damn the luck,
if that’s what it takes. Damn me that I don’t
have it. If this were forty years ago
I’d be lying in bed, reading a comic
book. My dog would be at my feet. I’d rub
his head and ears with my toes. Does he feel
it? We spend almost all day outside. Tired,
boy, I ask him, before I kill the light.
He yawns. That means yes. He doesn’t have to
speak. Pretty clever. Why didn’t I think
of that? So I crawl into bed and pull
up the sheet and reach for Supergirl on
the chair and he jumps up and lies down at
the end of the bed and he can still feel
my toes through the sheet. He’s placed himself right.
But of course he died a long time ago.
I was there when it happened, or damned near,
walking across the lawn to check the mail.
He lay in the shade of the live oak tree.
I know that he heard me, though he didn't.
He died the way he’d rested. I didn't
even get to say goodbye, or pet him,
one last time. Even so, I kneeled by him
and smoothed his fur. Good dog, I said. Good boy.
After I buried him I went inside
and washed my hands––not of death but of me,
for if there’s one thing I’ve learned about loss
it’s that people dirty it when it’s clean.
I still love him, and he still comes when called,
one poor creature running to another,
meeting halfway in the mid-air of blank page.
Gale Acuff has had hundreds of poems published in several countries and is the author of three books of poetry. He has taught university English in the US, China, and Palestine.
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