This morning there were two dogs
moving from patch of sun to patch of sun
along the winter carpet – no snow to disguise
the brittle crystals creeping up the fingertips
of bluegrass, singeing the bare tongues
of wilting fern. The sky was blue, you could see
how it varied in shade, slightly, left to right, scored
by reaching peaks of maple and oak. Last night he slept
through the final minutes of a football game
which was out of reach. He woke and walked
from window to window, the dark bleeding
from outside in, during those lost hours where only the fringe
elements habituate – joined by those who fell asleep on the couch
and must make the drowsy, aching climb to bed. Last night,
however, he felt oddly refreshed, going window to window at 3am
with a mug of tea that went cold while he was napping.
The Great Bambino kept a cabbage leaf under his cap
to keep cool in summer – he was trying to understand the night
when this thought crept in. The sort of thought that arrives
when the mind is fatigued, the distant offshoot of the coping
mechanism: cabbage leaves, salt peanuts, a song
by Dizzie Gillespie, some other jazz. He had been drinking.
His mouth was dry and tasteless. He found the old dog
and lay down beside her, muzzle to face. He whispered
thanks to that old dog for being what she was for so long.
This morning he slept late and tried to imagine a life
of rest, relief, infrequent walks, the blind exhilaration
of chasing a squirrel up a tree, a rabbit to a tight thicket,
or pigeons chased by the dozen into the air above
the fountain in the plaza. He found himself sketching her
stretched out over two blankets, determined hers, folded into a bed.
The younger dog perched at the window, fogging the glass
with small yelps as a teasing crow bobbed along the fence.
He poured coffee and took the old dog in his arms
and set her in the car, wrapped in her blankets.
They arrived and she stayed. On the drive home, he wept
thinking of the young dog, feet up on the window sill,
shaking with excitement as his keys rattled at the lock,
how she would tilt her head once she saw he was alone.
How she would run from room to room with a sloppy grin
that will fade into disappointment without companion.