All week we carry
the old dog outside to pee
and bathe him on the deck
in the sun when we are too late.
My beloved brings a bucket of warm water
from the sink, dips the cloth and lathers the dog.
Belief is beside the point.
If the universe is full of meaning
or empty, what difference?
The dog is wobbly, suffering
from what the vet called geriatric vestibula.
of the inner ear
that welcomes the world into the body
as a winter traveler, leaving the chilly station,
briefly warms herself in the entrance
before sliding open the door,
finding her seat on the train.
An infection or a small stroke,
and the calm sea of balance
sloshes over. We steady
the dog until the floor is level
and the room stops spinning.
Once I loved a man with no furniture.
A year after his divorce he was still living
out of boxes. We ate on the bed,
using an atlas as a table.
There is a map to everywhere,
only a matter of finding it,
and he was determined
to survey his life,
every landscape cleared,
the honeycombed heart cleaned out.
But to sit quietly with suffering
as beside a creek one has walked a long way
to reach, to lie back on a rock in the sun
and to breathe the sweet, green water,
to feel how grief given enough room
softens, this I learned later
when my heart was more than broken,
was powdered, coarse sand
the body gone through fire
Every day now
we are on the floor with the dog.
I like it here where it’s cool
and where the crumbs of our meals have fallen,
and hair and fur,
what is usually far below us,
once only the bottoms of my feet
but now my whole body
a citizen of this other world
of what is dropped and lost.