Walking My Seventy-Five-Year-Old Dog
She’s painfully slow,
so I often have to stop and wait
while she examines some roadside weeds
as if she were reading the biography of a famous dog.
And she’s not a pretty sight anymore,
dragging one of her hind legs,
her coat too matted to brush or comb,
and a snout white as a marshmallow.
We usually walk down a disused road
that runs along the edge of a lake,
whose surface trembles in a high wind
and is slow to ice over as the months grow cold.
We don’t walk very far before
she sits down on her worn haunches
and looks up at me with her rheumy eyes.
Then it’s time to carry her back to the car.
Just thinking about the honesty in her eyes,
I realize I should tell you
she’s not really seventy-five. She’s fourteen.
I guess I was trying to appeal to your sense
of the bizarre, the curiosities of the sideshow.
I mean who really cares about another person’s dog?
Everything else I’ve said is true,
except the part about her being fourteen.
I mean she’s old, but not that old,
and it’s not polite to divulge the true age of a lady.
I was trying to make my way
across a busy street in San Francisco,
while carrying the new anthology of poetry
I’d been flipping through earlier that morning—
with my pot of tea and two pieces of cinnamon toast—
in which I was wedged between James Tate and Bob Dylan
because the poets were arranged old to young, according to age.
I had to avoid a couple of cars,
cross over two sets of trolley tracks,
and dodge a guy with a ski cap on a bicycle
in order to get across the street and enter
one of the city’s many hospitable parks
with their hedges, benches, and shade trees
and often girls on a blanket, a juggler, an old man doing tai-chi.
And that’s where I lay down on the soft grass,
closed my eyes, and after a little while
began to picture the three of us lined up in a row
according to the editor’s wishes,
sliding out of our mothers in order, one after the other,
then ending up pressed together on a shelf
in a corner bookstore, yodeling away in the dark.
Paris in May
A teddy bear in a store window,
waiting to cross a boulevard,
a woman in a café, her red nails
on a man’s nape while she smokes—
what are we to make of all this?
In the church of Saint-Sulpice,
the Virgin holds her baby to her chest
as she stands on the round earth,
appearing to be unaware
of the serpent she is crushing with one foot.
Outside, four stone lions guard a fountain.
Is this a puzzle I am meant to solve
before the evening bells ring again—
here a man wearing a newspaper hat,
there a child alone on a flowery balcony?
An outdoor table on Rue Cassette
seemed a good enough place to sort things out.
And sure enough,
after two milky-green glasses of Pernod,
the crowd flowed around me like a breeze,
and I found a link between my notebook
and the soft Parisian sky,
both being almost the same pale shade of blue.