Sunday, May 15, 2016

Aftermath...When the Dog Dies


When the dog dies,
the house where the dog lived collapses in on itself,
or so it seems, having lost its joyful foundation
and the long-held rhythms of its brown-eyed wanderer.

When the dog dies,
the people inside the house where the dog lived
fall out of sync with obligations and plans.
They hold each other, remarking how alive he had been just the day before.
They call out his name again and again, as they did
a thousand times over days and weeks and years,
but he does not come running-- down stairs, through the door, beneath the table
to sniff out small bits of food or a furtive offering .
They replay what they’d spoken into the dog’s ears,
reciting tearful intimate messages as his spirit separated
for the journey back to the God who made him.

When the dog dies,
no one in the house where he lived
removes the bone from its hiding place behind the couch;
No one paints over the scratches on the front door.
No one empties his water bowl or scrapes the food into the trash
days after it has grown moldy and awful.
No one puts away his favorite blanket,
or the bed where he slept,
paws twitching as he dreamt of rabbits under the shed.

When the dog dies,
someone brings herself to the landing,
falls on her knees weeping,
scrubbing the ruined carpeting, his scattered final humiliation.
Someone closes the bedroom door
and paints the room black,
marking time in his sleep.
Someone wonders who she will tell her secrets to,
and remembers how the dog, now gone,
could always heal what was broken.

When the dog dies,
the people in the house where the dog lived
hold his leash wistfully, place his collar on the mantel,
gather up toys he chased and caught,   
rolling in grass, snow, the woods beyond the house.
They place them tenderly into the blue basket
beneath the window, remnants of a vibrant life.

When the dog dies
and one season has turned into the next,
the house where the dog lived
begins its long, slow breath in, until breath fills most of the spaces
he once inhabited, where once he waited for someone to come home
to greet his wild joyful circles of light.
It fills these spaces, save one, which it keeps like an altar
in worshipful memory, a gift
for the people in the house where the dog lived.