Forever My Muse

Has it been five years, or even six,
since we went on that final ride?
I think of it whenever I see that photo
of you and me sleeping, my head
on your shoulder and your patience
on full display. You were my muse.
And even though I’ve stopped
high-stepping over that place
in the carpet where you used to lay,
(I even found myself hurdling shadows
after the carpet was removed)
you have your way of coming back
to inspire some poem I didn’t know
I had within me. Like this morning,
when I found a golden Golden hair
shining in the back of a drawer
while I searched for something
I can’t recall now. It must have been
this poem. You knew I needed you.
You’ll always be my muse, just as I
will always be the man you led
toward art at the end of a leash.

Day 3 of my NaPoWriMo Poem-a-Day April Challenge. Today’s prompt: An animal poem. I’ve been inspired to poetry by plenty of the natural world’s its denizens. But none hold have led me to more of my art than my old dog Mollie. Yeah, it’s not every artist can say he had a high-class blonde inspire his greatest work…and mean it.

Angel on Her Shoulder


It’s just a hair, maybe
an inch or so long, not
perfectly straight
nor perfectly curved.
It’s of a shape and color
all too familiar to us.
It looks for all the world
like one of the millions
we swept, dusted and
vacuumed up for 13 years.

She keeps her photo bedside,
like her yearning to see,
to touch her angel dog again
after these three empty years.
This may explain the dream visit
they shared two nights ago,
but not the single golden hair
she found this morning on
the shoulder of the robe
I gave her last Christmas.

Sweetly spooky slice of life, for which I have not nor need any explanation, from the lives lived here.

The Language of the Rain

Raindrops, by Tony Webster, via Wikipedia

Sometimes, as I sit and listen
as rain raps its rhymes upon my window,
I wonder if it sounds the same on windows
looking out elsewhere in the world.
Kind of like how I wonder if a Brazilian dog
understands little Deputy next door
as he gives hell to some damp squirrels
in the pines out back.

He’s out there watching the sky now,
like he knows all this rain will end,
as it does in Dresden, Pietermaritzburg
and Exeter, and with it bring that instant
of peace before noisy life begins again.
I like to think we all understand,
that message no matter where we sit,
no matter what language we speak.
Or bark.

Just Like Deputy


We each sit in our respective spots
just out of the rain, little Deputy Dawg and I,
waiting for unknown prey to pop its head above the mud,
come slithering out from under a little bit
of landscape. There he goes, tearing ass
along his zip run, the cable sizzling
like a griddle until he reaches the end of the line,
where he tips up on his hind legs
and chews the air with yips, yaps and
a little guy’s idea of a fearsome bark.

On his way back under the porch, he dives
into a mole hole. Pushing and digging his way
into the lair of the unseeing though quite knowing,
he comes up with something indeterminate
from this poetic promontory, something
small and dark that he shakes until he’s satisfied
he’s drained the wild out of it.
Now he’s nibbling on its innards, sometimes
tossing a bit to the ground and ignoring it,
others giving it a sniff and a lick,
then putting it back with the body.

I understand this great hunt, the running headlong
into the darkness, ending up covered
in a kind of mud and blood, tipping back,
chewing the air with sounds little guys of each
our species make when we’ve spied our prey
and go in for the coup de grace. I know the feeling
of pulling something small and icky
from the muck and then tossing its best bits
into a pile for the unseen though quite knowing…
just like this…just like Deputy.

Poem #20 of Poem-a-Day NaPoWriMo 2015. This one coming on a rainy day here, watching the little Jack Russell next door do his thing (which has from time to time included nipping the poet’s writing hand). Now I’ve nipped little Deputy, myself. That’s the little devil up there in a nine-fingered photo by yours truly.

Just Standing Around

All night she sat in her chair across the room as we watched television. Finally, she muted the show, looked over at me and asked, “Do you still miss her?”

I thought it was a silly question. How could I not? But I answered, “Of course I do. She was such an important piece of my life.”

“Well, what do you miss most?” she said, in that hard-wired interrogative way women have in trying to mine men’s emotions. “Playing with her, petting her, feeling her unconditional love?”

See what I mean?

I played along because she was so damned earnest and I understood she wanted to show she cared. I’m an evolved kinda guy like that anyway.

“Well all those things. Sure.” I said.

She aimed those never-miss, sapphire laser-guided eyes into me and said, “But what most?”


“Give me a minute and I promise I’ll let you know.”

So she went to the kitchen, busying herself with fetching me another beer. After all, I was digging way down to bring forth the Hope Diamond of her hope to connect at a deeper level with me. I began running the home movies of my beloved old dog and me on the tacked up sheet of my heart.

She came back into the room and quietly set a glass of beer on a coaster on the side table. She then curled herself up next to me on the sofa in that way girls do—legs and feet beneath their bottoms like nesting cranes—and smiled a softly expectant smile at me. Its message was plain: “Well?”

Women would love it if the whole other half of the planet’s population could just pull out some emotion or feeling (the coin of the female realm) just as easily as they can. In an oddly effective bit of incentive, she played the cuddle card, which signified to me she expected something not necessarily weepy, but at least eye-blinking.

The funny thing is, I had her answer after my first sip of suds.

“It’s kinda a selfish thing” I said.

“Oh? Well what is it?”

“Just standing around,” I said.

Her expression turned a bit rigid and then fell like a sheet of melting ice off the church roof.

“Oh,” she said.

“No, you don’t understand,” I said. “My life no longer has those periods of…how can say this? Momentary stasis, thought, acceptance of now, that it did when my pup was alive.”

I could actually hear her blink, I think. But not the “Could you give me a Kleenex?” sort of blink.

“Every morning around dawn we’d go out the door and were greeted by a waking world. Pink clouds, tangerine windows of other early risers, hoo-hooing of mourning doves, songs of the other birds. Sometimes, I’d whistle back, just to see if they’d answer. And they DID! At night, we’d hang out and watch the stars look like they were doing the moving, instead of the clouds in front of ’em. And all because, for that moment in my life, I could just stand there.”

Her expression appeared to be taking on a little CPR, color and warmth returning to what a minute ago had all the life of a drowning victim.

“So that’s it?” she said, still on the verge of disappointment.

“I didn’t think you’d understand,” I said. “Look, Old Fluffybutt and I would go out there day and night. She’d do her in-the-moment thing and taught me I’d better learn to do mine, because she was in no hurry. I’d feel the air surround me, winter or summer, full of snowflakes, leaves or skeeters, and I could hear it talk to me, telling me to take it easy, don’t freak, life’s pretty good. Ya know what I mean?”

“M-m-maybe,” she said.

“All the while, I would watch her and then the sky, the trees, the clouds, airplanes’ scratching the sky with their contrails, critters and birds, and her shitty loads I forgot to pick up and the shitty grass I wish I didn’t have to. And I haven’t done that since she’s gone. And it’s a double loss to me, maybe a triple.”

“What do you mean?” she said, perking up a bit.

“I mean I don’t have her to share it with me the way we did anymore. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a guy and his dog thing.”

“No, dear,” she said. “It’s a very, very human thing.”

She hugged me, kissed me warmly and went into full cuddle mode, making these little happy noises as if she’d just enjoyed a fine meal. I’m sure she thought she’d made that brass-ring connection with me. Or a gold one.

I still really don’t think she understood ol’ Fluff’s and my deal, because she’s a woman, ya know?

Not a dog.

A Lesson from Mollie


Mollie (Photo © Joseph Hesch)

In our old days, driving southwest on I-88
somewhere between Albany and Oneonta,
my dozing young retriever Mollie would jerk
to wakefulness and jam her nose through
the gap in the passenger side window.

You’d hear her snort-snuff-snort
and see her body quiver all electric
in excitement over something I couldn’t see –
more than if she’d inhaled the arresting aroma
of a maverick hamburger a little kid dropped.

My Golden girl had picked up the pungency
of hamburger on the muck-caked hoof, though –
a dairy farm just behind the roadside trees.
With Mollie, it’s always scents before sights,
her canine early-warning system.

Yesterday Mollie snort-snuff-snorted
along a scent trail in our backyard head-first
into the chain link fence and then
into its fencepost. In her slowed-down age,
scents before sight had new meaning.

I never had such seeming prescient sagacity
with which I could sniff out upcoming instance.
Instead, I too-often raced headlong into
cowpies of woe on my way to I-knew-not-where.
Mollie and I have slowed down to sniff out more life.

Scents before sights, Joe.
Sense before sight.