The Only Hope I Never Abandoned

To the old man
Limping up the Lareda Street
Hill with the young dog
Spirited and playful
Barking, pulling at his leash
Champing with vigor
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.

I wonder if you worry
Too, about how the cars speed
Up these narrow streets
If you pull too hard like I do
On my girl’s leash
Holding her nervously next to me
Until the taillights recede
Into the distance.
“I’m sorry”, you say
“She just wants to play”
“I’m the only other living thing
She sees all day”
And there is a pain
Languishing in the space
Between us on this street
In this city
That I wish more
Than anything
I had an answer for
In a moment, I remember the sinking sorrow
Of walking through the world alone
Certain every other inhabitant
Crashing across the surface of
This lonely planet
Has long left you behind.
I’ll see you out here
Sometime this summer
Making my way down the hill
With my girl as her graying year
Slow her down so that I worry
Which walk will be the last one

Walking in the same old circles
In a different city
And a different year
Haunted by the same
Burning questions
Maybe I’ll tell you a story
Of how one day fourteen years back
When I threw my journal off
The Burnside Bridge
Into the Willamette rushing below

Friend, I was tired
Just so tired
Of pouring the same poison
Out of my pens
Always reaching the same goddamn conclusions.

It was just one of those days
Where giving in to desolation and 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
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 abandoned building
Walking with misanthropy for company
When she licked my face for the first time.

It was like a door opening
And the warmth
Of the purest love I ever did know
Rushing into a bitter heart
To drive out the cold.

When I count off all the strokes of good luck
That this life has offered
On my calloused fingers
This dog here
Is always the first.

 

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The Only Hope I Never Abandoned