The Only Hope I Never Abandoned

To the old man
Limping up the Lareda Street
Hill with the young dog
Spirited and playful
Barking happily, pulling at his leash
While you tried to keep up
I do not know either one of you
I don’t know your story.

But I love you
I love you
Like I know
The purity of love that accompanies
My very best friend
Friend curled up asleep
In the crease
Of my creaking knees
Every single night
For the past 14 years.

Man, do you worry like I worry
How these fucking cars speed
Up these narrow streets
Do you pull too hard like I do
On your boy’s leash?
I’m always holding her nervously next to me
Until the taillights recede
The rest of the way up the hill

“I’m sorry”, you say
“He just wants to play”
“If I’m being honest,
I’m the only other living thing
He sees all day”
There is a pain
Languishing in the space
Between you and me
On this street
In this city
That I wish more
Than anything
I had an answer for

I know a thing or two
About walking through the world alone
The haunting certainty that every other inhabitant
Crashing across the surface of
This lonely planet
Has long since left you on your own.

So I hope I see the two of you out here
Sometime this summer
Making my way down the hill
With my girl as age slows
Her down so that it my heart sinks with worry
Wondering which walk will be the last one

Maybe you’ll let me tell you a story
About that day fourteen years back
Clear on the other side of the country
When I threw my journal off
The Burnside Bridge
Into the rain-swollen Willamette
Friend, I was tired
Just so tired
Of pouring the same poison
From every one of my pens
Always reaching the same goddamn conclusions.

It was just one of those days
Where giving in to desolation
A darkness of soul seemed as good a choice to make
As any other with the shadow of the
Void breathing hell into my heart.

Do you know?
I think you know.
Maybe my story
Isn’t your own
But I’d bet you bottom dollar
It’s goddamn close enough

Just like I know
How a chance encounter
Maybe not so chance at all
Has a way of calling
A heart home back to a body
That first year
My heart came home
Running across the yard
With four paws
And a tail wagging
A hundred miles an hour

My girl, we basically grew up together
I was a kid
Living out of a backpack
Curled up in a sleeping bag
In an empty building
Waking up on a dirty floor
Next to misanthropy every morning
Drunk as hell
Knuckle-hungry for death
When she licked my face for the first time.

That Moment
It changed everything
Like a door flying open
Flooding the chambers of the heart
I was hell bent on destroying
With the warmth of
A love I thought forgotten

A friend told me later:
“Shit. I always worried
You would never make it to twenty-five
Until the day I saw the light
Living behind your eyes
With that little dog by your side.”

I count off strokes of good luck
On my fingers
Every night
Before I close my eyes
One by one
Home
Health
Breath
Friends
But you better
Goddamn believe
This dog here
I count her first.

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