Saturday, September 5, 2009

Farewell dear Rufus

Sitting in the hubbub that is night
in this neighborhood

moon tucked behind tree branches
and diminished by streetlamps

a steady thrum pulse of cicada
and strokes of other insect calls

near and far and farther yet
dogs speak
their high and low
sharp remarks

jet noise travels through the sky
from right to left
from beyond the city
to its heart

car tires pass by

a distant siren shouts urgency

the moon stays white
and round
and silent

something has caught me - a childhood sense
of dogs in the night
of everyone busy living

is this what touches the sadness
to come out of hiding?

my brown, stiff, geriatric canine
who trusted us
who took for granted
our goodness and care

as we sustained him through illness
and a very long old age

bending our comings and goings
to meet his needs

week in and out

waiting and worried and paying close attention

and glad he could keep on going

what gave us the right to decide
not to carry you further

it was too hard

we weren't free enough
to give you a few more days

probably full of stumbling and pain

(but how could we not ease that pain?)

you came back in a dream
young and low, like a seal
swimming through air
full of delighted motion
heading straight for me

why were you
with my father, old friend?

do you know
how I learn now
to treasure what remains?

this line came to me
in my scanty spatter of tears
(not yet full-bodied)

how our weary hearts
at this mortality

so we talk of you as absence

in a heartbeat, gone
from lively part of this family
to a sad furry remnant
not even holding much resemblance --

a mystery!
or a cheat

how shaken we were
to walk away, off
to ordinary bustle

with this absence
as if you had never been

an absence that catches
as habit turns to care for you
to plan to return to you
to expect you at doorway
or heavily asleep on your mat
in the morning

but we're free
now, after so many years,
not to attend to your needs
and when alone in the house
we are truly alone
undisturbed - uncompanioned

from one heartbeat
to no heartbeats left

as if you were resting
as if you were at peace

at least there's
no more pain
no more turning your head away
from offered food

no more stumbling
on uneven ground

I'm sorry we didn't have one more
long, clear, open, unhurried day
to spend with you

I'm sorry we tucked
your ending into a busy afternoon

getting ready
for a trip
to a wedding

I'm sorry
I've been too busy since
to say goodbye

to say I miss you

your leash still in the car
where we dropped it that day

your uneaten food in the cupboard

your ashes gone
with other unclaimed pets' --
we had no need for them

but perhaps ashes would have been something --
more than the lingering fur
in every unswept corner

more than this absence
less palpable than a shadow

just out of view

more than a silence

forgive us
every neglect
or shutting you out of awareness
-- for convenience
-- for busyness

for not loving you
gladly enough,
often enough

for having to make this decision
without knowing
what you would have wanted
if you could know
if you could choose

forgive us, all of you

earth animals
driven away,
or cherished without wisdom

you have stayed our healing companions

you have taught us
life's persistence
life's joy

thank you

and peace
be upon you