The Dog – Aracelis Girmay

Yes. I will watch your dog

while you are away in Antarctica & Belarus.

It will be my pleasure to take him out

into the morning & into the night grown

thick as wild crop after rain. Probably,

he will love it, but will miss you with his face

at the window near the door he last saw you leave from.

He will sleep there, waiting, night after night,

as my own Lola does when I am gone. & in his head,

he will make a list of things he knows you’ll come back for.

He will say, Come back, come back

for the shoe you left, & for the telephone.

Come back, he will say, to ride in a car

& to throw a ball. Come back for the radio.

& one of these nights he will notice the moon

& it will be full, & he will call it Antarctica

& feel better knowing you are there

some where he can see.

This will be his way of coping.

& when you come back, you know the story:

your work-boots, glistened by travel,

will stand coolly underneath you

at the front door & the dogs,

your dog & my dog, will howl

to meet you. & won’t you come

with your deep pockets filled with souvenirs of ice

that, later, in the kitchen, you will call “fruit”

as you slice into its brilliant, shining meat

with a hot silver knife. & the dog

will lick the ice with his tongue, & turn

his good head toward the window

& he will think Antarctica is lonely, & the light

will push through him

with a sadness that herds sadness

into the bell of his dog heart,

a heart you’ll want to throw your arms around

for the way it knows what it is to be so swollen with loss,

for the way it knows that every night, heaven will sing,

& every morning, heaven will sing like this,

at the windows. & the dog

will put his giant, breathing face into your palm

& for the moment, no sad thing will creep

or move ominously into the continent of the dog

whose mastiff lungs are filled with you now. Call it

the memory’s inventory: his lungs will hold,

like saddlebags, your hundred smells of flowers & work

& chutneys & schoolyards & gasoline.

He will forget that to see you leave

burned down his ramshackle heart once, instead

your smells will flood him in tides craned down

toward the chest’s burning honeycomb, amen,

perfect as water rushing toward third, again, amen.