WINNER OF THE 11TH MUDFISH POETRY PRIZE CHOSEN BY CHARLES SIMIC
WAKING ALONE ON SUNDAY MORNING
The bed warm, the house cold,
the sun bold as Paul
setting out for Rome
and certain death,
I surrender to languor.
The birds have flown south.
A dog barks to be let in.
Each year, hearing
for the first time
the double coo that gave
the bird its name, Wystan Hugh
would note the moment
in his diary, calling it
holy, the return
of the ordinary
knocking him to his knees.
The two-note wonder
like two blue clouds
in a child’s drawing
of the sky, white
because it doesn’t have to be.
FORGIVE ME IF I THINK OF MARRIAGE
As a four-legged thing, a sixty-pound mongrel taken in
with fierce resignation. This is going to be messy, I’d said,
having watched a twice-divorced ex-boyfriend paper-train a puppy. But ours would be different, so the argument always goes:
nearly grown already, spayed, unexpectedly house-trained.
In any case it was too late, half-wild as we were
for her mismatched hurricane eyes.
I was the one who went to the obedience classes
you signed us up for, kept to all the rules you broke
for love. She was the one who kept me company nights until you came home, then followed you upstairs to bed while I stayed up reading.
I was the one who took her weekly to the vet,
held her head against my shoulder and the needle in place, which you could not bear to see.
The prognosis was good until it wasn’t.
I stood on the scale with her, then without, figured the difference, our chances, all the numbers failing.
Those last October weeks when you were away
I slept an hour at a time at the edge of the bed, awake before she touched my hand. When there was nothing
to be done I asked the vet to wait until you’d seen her.
He was the one who said, We do not wait to end suffering. Yet how she lit up like a sparkler at the sight of you,
pulled herself up for one more walk; you’d think I’d lied to hurry you back. Then again, she was more yours than mine. As she should be:
You were the one she favored,
the one she followed out of the room.