Hello Pretty Girl,
Here I go again. Still using company stationery. One of these times I'll use something else and you'll wonder who is writing. Perhaps I better explain something right now. This is going to be a very poor letter. I'm in an awfully bad mood to-day. You didn't know I was moody, did you?
I was never innoculated against puppy cuteness. This is what happens when you don't get the puppy cuteness vaccine. WARNING: If you have not been vaccinated against puppy cuteness, watching this video of Isabella Cosette Flora Wilhelmina von Matternhaus the Only and Ever may be hazardous to your health, your pant legs, and your carpet.
Our brave and beloved explorer has left us and embarked on a grand new adventure. We are lost without his sweet face. Onward, Sir James! How loved you are and always will be. January 11, 2013 gave you a new freedom. We'll catch up with you at the pass, my good boy.
I pick up another Wee Wee Pad, its pale yellow circle of success still warm.
"Good potty! Good potty!" I coo with the enthusiasm of deranged children, the feeble-minded, and those pleading for their lives.
Lady Isabella Cosette Flora Wilhelmina von Matternhaus the Only and Ever sits pertly at my feet, receiving her due praise with aplomb. She is almost 12 weeks old, and she is so darling and so vulnerable I could weep. She is teetering on the brink of death just by being near my feet. This is why we do not keep newborn babies on the floor.
My heart twists with violent despair and terrible love. This is fairly routine, so I stay standing.
I know Isabella's age because she is the only dog I have ever had here whose birth was witnessed and documented: October 15, 2012. She is a Libra, a peacemaker, a lover of beauty and music, ruled by Venus.
Her perfect button ears (considered a severe penalty in the show ring, proving that the human race's ability to find fault everywhere, even at ankle height, makes us the most flawed breed of all) are sweetly inverted triangles, tipped over her hazel eyes (light eyes will also be penalized in the ring).
I like her ambiguously colored eyes very much. Right now, they are fixed on me. She waits patiently for a treat. She peed very nicely on her Wee Wee Pad and the Tall Human is a little slow on the uptake. I have not had my coffee yet. I scramble for the treat baggie.
She waits some more. She is a forgiving little soul.
"Here you go, baby," I say finally, handing her one-fourth of an already impossibly small tidbit. All those years of cutting hot dog circles into eighths to save my children's lives have paid off. I can make small things very, very, very much smaller, when this skill is needed.
Isabella takes the morsel gently but eagerly, then helps herself to an additional single miniscule piece of Small Breed Puppy kibble from her bowl.
She is learning fast, far faster than I had expected. She learned "sit" in two days, confines most of her toilette to Wee Wee Pad acreage, and is already getting the hang of "wait" and "drop it."
I don't know where she gets it. I am terrible at both "wait" and "drop it."
I feel a pang of guilt for having underestimated her. Little Girlfriend has got it together. She is absurdly reasonable about conveying her needs. She is also absurdly reasonable about accepting my awkward attempts to fulfill those needs.
If either of my children had been this reasonable as newborns, I would have twelve children by now.
Lady Isabella is an Italian Greyhound. This does not mean she drives a Ferrari or shops Versace or has a difficult time managing her lady whiskers. She is simply a miniature greyhound, the whole sleek package shrunk to snack-size proportions. The Italian Greyhound likely originated in Turkey or Greece, but it seems the Italians took a particular shine to them. Random royals across Europe then got wind of this Italiano dog sensation and began breeding oodles of them and gifting them to each other so everyone could keep their laps warm in chilly palaces.
Technically, Italian Greyhounds are a toy breed, but they are fully hound in mind and design. The Italian greyhound is the tiniest of an array of sniffers and sighters and coursers and finders and lurchers. All hounds are notorious for their singlemindedness, willpower and independence. They want what they want, and they go after it.
This is why I would not be a hound, if I were a dog. Don't get me wrong: it sounds like a nice way to live. I just think God would laugh in my face if I ever asked to be one.
I do not know what I want anymore, so I have no idea how to go about getting it. I can't smell it or see it. I would make a very terrible hound. Useless, even.
If I were a dog, I would be a cooped-up border collie with anxious eyes and an overactive imagination. Which is why I have a cooped-up border collie with anxious eyes and an overactive imagination. We are co-dependent, Fanny and I, but we understand each other. Surely that must count for something. Our bowels are also overactive, like our imaginations. Pretend I did not tell you this.
Not to belabor the point, but I swore on my life that I would never, ever have a hound. Like, I made a blood pact with myself, except without the blood part.
Working dogs, herding dogs, please--that is what I know best. Ferf, Nina, Eli, Fanny, Sir James: all five shepherd or collie-ish mixes, maybe a bit of husky or chow thrown in for good fluffy measure. I dig that double coat, the tufts that float around like dandelion wishes.
I have been reading about dogs all my life. My parents would not let me have a dog. My mother did not like the thought of an animal that roamed the halls by night like Hamlet's dead father. So I read dog book after dog book with my parakeet sitting on top of my head, or a guinea pig asleep on my chest, or a gerbil squirming inside my shirt.
On paper, working dogs and herding dogs sound like this: Smart, eager to please. Sensitive. Independent, but seeking direction from a wise, kind mistress. Even as a child, reading my very first Book of Dog Breeds, I knew. I would be that mistress! To hell with the spaniels and setters and retrievers and hounds and toys and terriers! I would have WORKING DOGS! I would be wise and kind and quick with SIT STAY DROP IT GET THE FRISBEE NO BITE TAKE IT HEEL DOWN NO GET BACK HERE I MEAN IT AND THE SHEEP NEED TO BE SHEARED BY SUNDOWN I'LL GET DINNER READY. My working dogs would gaze lovingly and intently into my eyes and read my mind before I spoke.
They would save my children from wells, and your children, too.
They would also poop in my mother's slippers and need anti-anxiety medication, in lieu of sheep.
Isabella makes little squabblegrunty Snoopy noises, the sort of sounds Snoopy makes when he is disgruntled about an empty dish or a thwarted wish. I have never heard an actual dog make Snoopy sounds. It is as if she has watched Snoopy on YouTube many times. The noises she makes cannot be real, but they are. I know because I stare down her throat whenever she yawns and there is no machinery or anything out of the ordinary.
Isabella Cosette Flora Wilhelmina von Matternhaus has been here since Christmas Eve.
Every morning, I awake expecting to find some sort of holy terror unleashed, some sign that bringing her to our home was a terrible error in judgment. Every morning, I search for a sign that I must find her the perfect home, immediately.
Every morning, I find her delicately high-stepping beside her Sleepy Crate inside her GoGo Pen, tap-dancing on her Wee Wee Pads (less mess than my children make overnight). Every morning, she is delighted to see me, flawed human that I am, with smallish ears (fault in the ring), small head (penalized by milliners here and in Europe), thin lank hair (poor breeding), blotchy skin (judges recommend skin scraping for mange), and unwieldy, lumbering conformation (do not overfeed, fat is unsightly on a purebred human and will obscure its long, lean lines, such a situation is unhealthy for the human and unpleasant for those who must look upon it).
Every morning, I am saying, she looks at me. She whines a little, but she does not yip, yap, or bark. She looks at me and I look at her and we begin our day, without fuss or fanfare, as whatever we are to each other.
I have played it over and over in my mind.
My mistake was being in the absolute wrong place. The problem is, I was there at the right time, or what was possibly the right time. The thing about wrong is that it is obvious. Right is always up for debate, which is an even bigger problem.
The too-long story is ten times too long. Even the short version is too long. You've noticed.
So here is what I will tell you never, ever to do on Christmas Eve:
Do not look for stocking stuffers in the only mall within 200 miles that has an establishment that you despise and advocate against on a regular basis.
Do not walk past that establishment, which traffics frail puppies shipped in dark crates from undercover puppy mills in the Deep South. DO NOT DO THIS. Even if you save one puppy, you are perpetuating a terrible cycle. At this instant, the puppy's mother is likely suffering in a filthy cage with other bereft, traumatized mother dogs, many with swollen, painful teats from having their pups snatched away too soon. Truth: There is no happy ending for these dogs, not as long as people breed dogs for profit. The photographs would make you cry and hang your head.
So here is what you especially must not do:
Especially do not notice that the frailest-looking puppy of all -- a dainty and doe-eyed Italian Greyhound -- has feet so petite that they keep slipping through the holes in the wire bottom of her square cage set in the Big Wall of Sad and Depressing and Listless Puppies.
Do not notice that one leg has become stuck. Do not notice that the puppy is in distress. Do not remember everything you know about this breed from memorizing your childhood dog books (very fragile bones, leg breaks are common and even likely).
Do not get the attention of the college-age salesgirl. Do not warn her about the puppy's leg. Do not tell her that the miniature greyhounds are very sensitive and get cold easily and that you are a little worried about the little fawn female and maybe you could just warm her up and give her a little snuggle and some socialization on Christmas Eve, because after all, it is Christmas Eve.
DO NOT DO ANY OF THE AFOREMENTIONED THINGS, I BEG YOU.
In my mind, I could still get out alive, with my lofty morals intact. I would simply cuddle the puppy for a little while. I would give her some loving human contact. I would rub her sore paw. I would whisper sweet hopeful things into her floppy satin ears about the wonderful life she would find. I would say, Merry Christmas, little one, and some part of her hummingbird heart would remember that bit of goodness, long after the salesgirl plucked her from my arms and returned her to her wire-grate cell.
I would do those things, and then I would go to the airport as planned, to pick up my boyfriend.
Where's the EYE-TALIAN Greyhound? I called and you said you had it in stock. I drove here 45 minutes to get it so you better get it for me.
It is a terrible voice. A woman, harsh and angry and a little insane.
No no no, I think. The puppy burrows deeper into my coat in our little Get Acquainted Closet with the half-door. I instinctively pull my coat around her, around my belly.
THE EYE-TALIAN GREYHOUND. Don't you tell me it's gone. I called ahead. I drove 45 minutes in traffic and I'm here to get it. Now. Where is it? The one with papers. I saw the sign you had, it had champions in the line. I'm gonna hang the papers on the wall.
I hear the salesgirls' thin voices, faintly pleading: She's with a nice woman right now. She's being held right now.
Where? It's mine. Where is it?
The woman's head appears over the half-door. She glares at me. Behind her sulk two pimpled, sullen teen boys.
There it is, boys. That's it. We're gonna take it home when she puts it down.
The boys snigger. One protests, It's too small, I don't want it. The other says, It's so small, I could kick it.
The bottom drops out. I decide that as far as my mistakes go, 2012 has gotten off easy. 2012 owes me one.
I stand up. I hold the puppy to my heart. "Talk to me about financing," I say.
The woman explodes. She makes a scene, complaining to everyone who will listen. She shoves another woman. You cannot make this stuff up.
During the kerfuffle, I quietly ask the salesgirls if they have the right to refuse a customer, the way a bartender can cut someone off if he thinks they can't handle their liquor. Surely, I say, they can refuse? She can't go home with those people. She can't.
They shake their heads grimly. It's awful, says one. You don't even know.
I pull out five credit cards, including the emergency credit card from my mother.
"This may take some doing," I tell them. I apologize in advance for whichever ones will be declined.
They hurriedly assure me that no apologies are necessary. Thank God, one says.
I am not thanking God, personally, not yet.
A kind woman who has watched the entire drama unfold gently strokes the puppy's ears.
I don't know what the hell I am doing, I say.
Maybe every dog is a rescued dog, she says, and smiles like the Mona Lisa.
Forty-five minutes and one faux military discount later, there is a blinking, shivering Italian Greyhound in my purse, the contents of which I have dumped into the backseat of my car. I have lined the purse with a Wee Wee Pad. My heart is racing and I am ready to vomit. This is dumb. This is really dumb. This is one of the dumbest dumb things I have ever done, and that is quite possibly saying a lot. I can barely afford heating oil. I do not believe in pet stores, in puppy mills. I have two cats and two dogs and two daughters. I know nothing about tiny dogs who need sweaters and raincoats and have bones like glass swizzle sticks.
I drive to the airport, with the puppy on my lap. I go through the same tollbooth twice. I am lost. I am in so much trouble with all the humans in my life, I know it. I break out in a cold sweat, steeling myself.
I make it to the airport. In my purse, wrapped in my striped scarf and the Wee Wee Pad, the puppy shakes and shivers when we exit the car and cross the windy parking lot to the terminal.
Oh my, exclaims a woman in the waiting area. Is this a Christmas surprise?
Yes, yes, it is, I say.
It'll be a good surprise, I hope, she says.
I'm not sure, I say.
I am sure I am going to vomit. But I can't vomit into my purse, which would have been my go-to place. The puppy nuzzles my nose.
I know, honey, I say. I know. Hi. Bella.
When he gets off the plane and sees the puppy tucked in my purse, he just shakes his head. I was already married to this, he says.
This is not a happy statement, but I do not blame him. I am a swirling conflicted panicking mess. I now owe an absurd amount of money for a creature that may break her legs in my purse on the way home. She may contract pneumonia from a chill in the parking lot and be dead by Christmas morning.
I can make it right, I will say later. You have to let me make it right. This is my mistake and I will make it right.
I would like to tell you that this story has a happy ending. The ending is really up to you. It depends on what you are: a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty or please-fill-my-glass-or-I-will-cut-you kind of person.
I don't know how it ends, myself.
Fast forward: the holidays are over. We are at the beginning of a new year, and back at the beginning of this story. I am the only human in the house at the moment. I chase away my sadness by tending to my creatures, I know I do. Of course I do. The poo, the pee, the medicines, the routine: I trust it, all of it.
I am grateful for this. I am grateful for them. This is simple. And I am hungry for simple. I enjoy the honest work of caring for animals. I understand it. Understanding something in your life: this can not be underestimated. This keeps me whole, it protects what I have left.
Sometimes, I think there is not much left. I am not being dramatic. There are holes now, dark corners that you would not want to visit.
Sometimes, I feel something wiggly in the vicinity of my heart, squirmy like this puppy. It could be fear, it could be hope.
She looks at me. I look at her. We begin another day, again.
Sat down about 10 minutes ago to write to you, but have just been sitting here dreaming. Nearly went to sleep. It's a windy day, therefore a sleepy one to boot. Was just thinking of how very poor my eyesight is and how I hate glasses. Never wear them on duty -- did one day and a private decided to call me "goggles" and haven't since. Not on account of that tho' -- but because were I to, none of them would hang around and say a lot of sweet baloney about my looks, etc. It doesn't mean a thing to them or me, but just helps pass the monotony. Just hoping and praying I can go on without wearing them -- have to!
First of all, thank you so much for the doughnuts and cookies and also the dresses. The eats tasted wonderful and did we eat. Am still a little bit heavy for that black and red dress, but not bad. Will be so happy when I lose the gain. If only I were like you. Boy, if those guys ever saw your legs they'd go wild. Sounds as if we act bad -- we don't, just a lot of guys around and you know how they are and how crazy they act. We have fun though.
No, I haven't met any officers yet, but hope to Mon. nite. We're having a big Halloween formal dance that nite and it's a stag party. They've invited 150 stag men and think are not that many nurses. So pray I have some fun, look nice and meet someone nice. Am going down today and get a formal. Really hate to in one way but should have one anyway and do so love to go dressed in formal clothes. Hope they aren't too high.
Mom sent me an iron and clock, happy day! Sent them the money right away and also the folks $5 -- the stuff came to $5, too. Mom is worried about what they'll do to live if Johnny has to go too and Elsie leaves. For one thing, where would Elsie go, and another, just because he's gone is no sign he won't have to send home money and with my $10 or $15 home every month, and the food you bring, they should get their bills payed and also be able to live half-way decent, don't you think?
One of my privates gave me $5 to keep for him. Am going out with him Sat. nite. He's cute but don't know just how to take him, but hope to have fun. We're going bowling in the afternoon I think. Yesterday afternoon I went out with an army air cadet -- like Milt. Was out with him before too. Winkie and another nurse went along -- Winkie didn't have such a good time I'm sorry to say. Some men are really not at all well-mannered when it comes to going or not going with a girl. Monday afternoon we met two cute air corps cadets with a nice car. We were bicycling, but quit and they took us downtown, then out to dinner that eve. and we went to the amusement park and went on a lot of rides, even the merry-go-round (imagine them in uniform doing that, ha). They're coming Sunday -- keeping my fingers crossed so I get off. They have to be in by 10, so they're coming at 1 p.m. for all day. It seems one just has to go out a lot to keep up spirit.
Got two letters from Milt today. He won't go out with anyone he says, because he couldn't possibly think of anyone with him but me and says it gives him an aching empty feeling to think of me with someone else but to do as I please. He's as much in love as ever or more so! Also rec'd a letter from Johnny Fell. He wants a picture so will send him one for his album. He's really a proud father it seems.
Speaking of pictures -- one of the privates made some for me for 1 cent a piece. He enlarged one to a 4" x 6". We took some inside of the office I'm anxious to see. He developed those too. One set a private took home with him on furlough and will send to me. Will send you some if they're any good.
Can't get over Herb and Ann -- honest to Pete, nearly fell over when I read that! What has gotten into her after 9 years and 2 children. Maybe she wasn't in love when she married Herb, but gosh after 9 yrs. you'd think she'd let it go at that and keep on. And especially with 2 children to think about -- that ought to be enough to make her keep her head. That's what comes of loveless marriages most of the time. Maybe Katy did encourage Ann to marry Herb, but she didn't have to, that's sure. Who told you about it? How are Amelia and Sylvester coming, do you ever hear? Has Ann really left Herb -- where is she staying? Really, it's awful. No, their marriage will never be the same again.
Oh yes, got the photos and surely like them. Wouldn't give them up for anything. I keep my stationery in the dresser drawer along with my cologne, etc. Have some I meant to send you and will sometime. I don't like it, but maybe you will. It's good cologne, $1.10 a bottle -- Pink Cover, but somehow don't like it. Winkie got me to buy it as she likes it. I love Confetti cologne -- same price and have some. Got some wonderful powder base and does it smell good!
Finally sent off Alice's babies' gift -- a rec. blanket, small rubberized blanket padding and blue kimono. The kimono is made out of some kind of material -- anyway the tiny thing cost .89. Things here are kind of expensive.
Winkie just came home. She doesn't want to go to the formal. Gee, I wish she would -- am sure she'd have fun and gosh you just can't stay home and expect a prince charming to walk up and take you buy the hand -- now can you? She doesn't want to buy a formal she says. Well, gee -- she's got so [...] more money to do it with than I have. Besides, everyone should really have at least 1 formal, I think so, you don't always have to borrow and sometimes there's no one to borrow from. If I don't have fun I'll feel terribly bad because I got one -- yet I'll have it for some future time, I hope. If I have to wear it to my wedding or funeral!
Got my identification card yesterday. The picture is awful of me but most of them are. We also got our "dog tags" or identification tags which we wear around our neck at all times. If anything happens to you, one stays with you and the other is sent home to your parents. Nice tho't! Oh well.
Guess I'll have to close and get ready to go downtown. Stores are open tonite so there'll be a mad rush no doubt. Do write soon, won't you? All of my love and thanks again. Love, Cathie.
[Transcribed letter from an army nurse to her sister back home in Scotland, South Dakota]
Cylindropuntia fulgida (Jumping Cholla Cactus) is native to the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico.
The "jumping cholla" name comes from the ease with which the stems detach when brushed, giving the impression that the stem jumped. Often the merest touch will leave a person with bits of cactus hanging on their clothes to be discovered later when either sitting or leaning on them. The ground around a mature plant will often be covered with dead stems, and young plants are started from stems that have fallen from the adult. They attach themselves to desert animals and are dispersed for short distances.
Other names for this cactus include the hanging chain cholla, chain fruit cholla, cholla brincadora, and velas de coyote.
I can't hear a thing today.
The snow is the loudest act
I drop macaroni on the
exhausted kitchen floor.
I look down and see cactus,
the spiked, pale yellow
hitchhikers of our July.
I can see your California
canvas shoes in the dust
and remember the cholla
that poked through, claiming
your brown skin as home.
That, I saw coming.
So like you, to wear those
flimsy shoes in the garden
of fantastical leaping quills.
to a dog.
I want to hold your foot,
make sure this time
that we've gotten it all.
I want to bid that clever,
unwelcome traveler farewell.
Next time, I'd insist on better
shoes for us both. But I'd still
leave the car running, the air
blasting cold and kind and
forgiving for us two: stupid
and stubborn both, to wander
so far into the cholla maze
on a day already burning brown
at the edges.
Better shoes, a longer lens.
What would you change?
They tell me to expect a broken leg. A broken leg bone is more likely than not. Learn to make a spoon splint, says one expert. These dogs think they can fly.
I consider our spoons. I lost a number of teaspoons during my marriage. They drowned in milky pools in the bottom of ice cream cartons, slipped out of sight and were discarded--baby with the bathwater, the way many marriages seem to go. Tablespoons now outnumber teaspoons roughly 2-1. I think of the Flying Dog, not even five pounds of canine. I imagine her bones, slight as plastic straws. Read up on butter knife splints, I think.
While I sleep, the greedy house binges on the last drops of another trough of oil. It belches and the pipes go still. I don't realize what has happened until the flying dog wakes us at 4 am, crying piteously. Although I know I am not supposed to, I go to her, descending the stairs to her ladylike crate beside her elderly companion Sir James, who slumbers on his pile of blankets. The air is thick and cold. I scoop up the shivering puppy with one hand and tuck her into my robe. I touch a copper pipe. Nothing. I'm sorry, I say to her. Sometimes the house gets away from me. Sometimes it all gets away from me. The road to hell and all that.
Her DNA is not of the judging variety. Cradled in my arm, inside the robe, she contentedly buries her nose in my armpit. All is well again, for her, just like that.
I carefully pick my way down the cellar stairs with the Flying Dog in my armpit. I check the oil tank. It seems like just last week that we had an oil delivery. Lose an 'e' and you can spell 'devilry" from 'delivery,' I think. The gauge on top of the monstrous tank tells me what I already know: empty.
Immediately I think of the Everybody and Everyone. If I tell of this, the Everybody and Everyone will say, See? How she is?
Yes. This is sometimes how I am. Doesn't matter if sometimes you are something else, something quite wonderful. This is not what will make the news, not ever.
I am nauseous with grief, that word forbidden to those not caught up in a death. I gag. I heave. My chest burns, here, here, and here.
The ring is antique gold, from England, with a comet fashioned from two tiny mine cut diamonds. I was happy to find it, because love is happy to find objects that speak better than words. I was not sitting too far away, I was not running away, I was never obligated. I was there and so glad to be there and then nothing I said mattered, because it was all happening too fast and too loud and too wrong. Baby with the bathwater, spoons lost.
And now, the ache begins.
With death, all is fair, and you can use any word you like. I envy widows, widowers. Gone. Rewrite the story if you need. The one left behind is granted this. Go on however you wish.
With space, distance, uncertainty, ambivalence, fear, anger, ways parted, divided loyalties, the ugly fraught unnecessities, the loss...
(and for how long? forever? six months? ten years?)
you'd best keep your grief on the down low.
If no one has died, if there's no body but your own numbness, you'll have to shoplift grief when no one is looking, stuff it down deep in your pockets. Frown and nod as polite society encourages co-opting a different noun—can we interest you in a smaller, more modest hole of a word?
Sadness is the suggested, go-to word, but it just won't do. Some of you know. It just won't.
In the glittering dark, I slurp my cherry Icee. When Anne Hathaway sings,
But the tigers come at night / With their voices soft as thunder
I begin crying. No one will hold Fantine close again, not that way. She will never see her daughter, Cosette, again.
My daughter, on the other hand, sits to my left, sharing my popcorn. I try not to shake, to make wet mewling noises. What is so bad, after all? I have enough. To someone, having a daughter to share popcorn with at the movies would be enough. It is all enough, or should be.
But still, the tigers. I know about the tigers. There are males and females and they do what she says they do. The dreams turn to shame.
The Flying Dog, rescued from vile innkeepers (or say they were), will be Isabella Cosette, and she is welcome to any of my cutlery: teaspoons, tablespoons, forks, knives. I stroke her satin skin and paper-thin ears, traced with fine red capillaries. Her tail has a lump, possibly a break from her brief time in her litter in Purdy, Missouri, puppy mill capital of the South.
I did this thing. I brought her home, because it was right. Right and stupid can co-exist, I learn all the time, the way of the necessary fool. I set her down and dig my knuckles into my eyes, my fingers smelling faintly of puppy poo and buttered popcorn. Some things, I can make right. Some things, I can't find my way.
I wake up warmer but wishing for death. It is an old habit, and old habits only die hard if you flog them, which seems too cruel a way of going about it. I am cursing at the sun again, never a good sign. I wanted to be away, to have a chance to settle, to calm myself, to think things through, but somehow this is not what happened. I hate each fucking day again, despise the need to raise my gaze from the floor. Each thing I see tells me something I do not want to know, to hear.
There is no such thing as being right and smart. Right and stupid: that's the only pairing up for grabs at this time.
Two lungs inflate, then release
what no one but you can see.
The exhale is wet crimson chiffon,
tattered, tugged by the
scarf-swallower. Ta-da. Ta-da!
Hold your applause.
This is how it begins. Open another bottle
of wine, stroke a furred head, take it slow.
This is the way, on this night
of violent sky
with angry glitter and sound unfit
for the little ones, who know better.
Meanwhile, the nighttime sky braces itself
and peels away from the Earth, preparing
to be torn by unwelcome, unnatural
light. The dark has no say in the matter,
not on this night. Pray for it, a little.
You, on the other hand:
Do what you must and grieve
for whatever it is that you
have just lost, even though
you cannot speak it aloud.
You know lost.
You will be in bed by ten,
this time. Who is to say this
is not for the best?
Happy holidays from here.
In the dream you wrote I love you in the snow
outside my house, a house that would be mine
only as long as I stayed asleep and held tightly to
this snow globe, watching to see what you'd do
I like the open spaces here. I like them, but I don't trust them. I never feel safe, exactly. Who says the clouds won't fall? Look how heavy they look, after all. And who says there isn't someone in the brush off to the left, watching? Who says there isn't someone behind me, behind the fence and its NO TRESPASSING sign, waiting?
Still, I feel safer here than I did in the city. I have my red dog—my second red dog, what are the odds—and she stays close. You can't say that about everyone. I firmly reject the metaphor "the black dog of depression." The dogs are the only antidote to the shadows always lurking in the periphery of this thing of mine, this thing best referred to as a life, until it becomes a death. The dogs—their fur, vomit, urine, feces—I will always choose them over a clean house. I am grateful that they choose me back. This is the closest I will come to "safe."
"Who's that?" she asks.
"That's what my great-great-grandfather would have looked like. He shot live pigeons. For sport."