When a human dies, the grieving family member or friend may regret things left unsaid. Emotions are kept close to the chest for fear of too much intimacy revealed or more likely because they figured there would be more time down the road.
But with you, it was different. Every morning and every night I told you how much I loved you. I kissed you and scratched you and sometimes squeezed you despite your obvious distaste for that level of affection. We shared countless “moments”. Your eyes would bore into mine when you wanted something, but sometimes I would be boring right back, trying to see how many lives have been documented behind those wizened eyes. I have only known a few “Old Souls” in my lifetime, but you were the epitome; everyone could see it in your eyes. Just last week we had a staring contest in the middle of dinner. You caught me looking at you from across the room while you were eating, and so you stopped. And I looked to the side and resumed my popcorn consumption, trying to not be obvious that I was still looking, and you picked up a kibble, but kept your attention diverted on me. I stopped and stared, and you did the same, and eventually, after our eyes remained locked for almost a minute, you gave an imperceptible nod and continued eating.
So I can’t regret things left unsaid, but it’s hard for me to accept that despite my daily proclamations of adoration and love, you didn’t understand a word of it. You didn’t know what “I love you so much, Mamela” meant, nor could you comprehend the daily, weekly, yearly accumulation of declarations because time did not mean the same thing to you. It didn’t matter, except that it coincided with scratching, which is what you wanted, nee demanded, every morning.
How often I supplied your dialogue, silly and funny, but considering I knew you so well it was usually appropriate.
“It’s basic, Mama. Three things: Scratches, Dinney, Walk Outside. Basic.”
And the tennis ball. You loved that effing tennis ball with such ferocity that I literally could not pry it from your mouth. The only thing you loved more than the tennis ball were the treats I was forced to use to bribe the ball away from you.
Remember when you were a puppy and you were a poorly behaved terror? Food bloat after food bloat, and no matter what lengths we would go to to keep you contained, you inevitably broke out like a wicked Houdini. You climbed the baby gate like a monkey, just to gobble up Cozy’s food. And we came home, only to be greeted by a fat, waddling little Boston Terrier who seemed to be pretty proud of herself for her accomplishment. You chewed Busty’s shoes when you were a puppy! You! The “Good Girl”. That’s something that people don’t know about you. Before you were the Good Girl, you were a crazy Boston Terrorist for the first six months of your life.
But for over fourteen years, you were the Good Girl. You were the one that minded, the one that listened (most of the time), the one that I could trust off leash. Strangers favored Baby O because of her puppy looks and behavior, and because she was so social, but everyone that spent a considerable amount of time with you eventually came to realize your merits.
You were my best friend. You lived with me in Laguna, San Fran, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. Vanessa and I were so young when we first fell in love with you, and you have been there for every birthday. What will I do at my next birthday? You won’t be there, my Mamela, my baby, my Good Girl. When I cried, you were distressed and always there to lick my tears. When I packed luggage, you paced and paced, potently aware that I would be leaving you soon. When I busted out the camera or phone to snap yet another photo, you conceded, even though you found it tiresome.
I’ve always known this day would come, and I have bored and distressed my friends with talk about this inevitable day and its consequences, but I was honestly scared that I wouldn’t be able to deal without some preparation. I've carried your heart for almost fifteen years, after all.
Dear Mamela, I love you so much. There will never be another dog like you.
She feels hungry always
dangerous to herself
unsure, unclear, unsure
if she is a danger to the child
The girl starves herself
like it’s her career
She is employed elsewhere, yes,
but she is also very good
at the daily starvation
She cannot remember
when her lifetime career of starvation
started, nor does she foresee
a conclusion, other than
the obvious one that is looming
around the corner of her bedroom
her kitchen, the crib
That’s right, there’s a child
will she live long enough
to teach the child
the beautiful clarity achieved
Will her child learn how to maintain
the illusion of normalcy?
To the dog that hates karate
To the dog that could outrun the entire dog park
To the dog that loves Diet Coke bottles
To the dog that makes crazy alien noises when she even glimpses a Chuck It
To the dog who chased her ball into the waves
To the dog who loved Chrissy Field
To the dog who loved Fort Funston
To the dog who loved Laguna Beach
To the dog who loves Provincetown
To the sheriff always on patrol
To the dog who comes running every time she hears the popcorn machine
To the dog who loves to eat watermelon
To the dog who morphed into Mr. Hyde the first time she got a bully stick
To the dog who ate the banana bread and blamed it on Olive
To the dog who killed it at the tidbit toss
To the dog idolized by Baby Olive O.
To the dog that refused to play dead.
To the last Ma'amsey,
To the Canine Dame Judi Dench,
To the dog park dog, a dog park dog, born to be a dog park dog,
To the dog who thinks singing is for babies,
To the dog that mauls plush toys like she's killing prey
To the dog that fake bites my hand when I trim her nails
To the dog that invented Quiet Dinosaur
To my right hand gal
To my M, my Ma'amie, my Mamela
To my best friend
the good girl
our best girl,
I truly hope we meet again.
I will bring the tennis ball.
I feel like you wish
that I would rhyme
Like it’s not a poem
if not in time
So does this one count
my little friend?
Give me a head nod
snaps at the end
Nah, just joking you
those paws can’t snap
Don’t worry yourself
lay down and nap.
You’ve known me so long
you sweet old gal
New York from SF
SF from SoCal.
My darling best girl
Just you next time
You’ll move on; I’ll stay
death a sharp line
I love you so much
warm heart cold world
My baby, my old lady,
my forever good girl.
Look at that girl, fifteen and full of hope
slash anticipation slash anxiety slash bizarre dreams.
Her dreams are always unusual
like she learns it is not normal
to remember multiple dreams throughout the night
she takes pride in her dream recall.
Her mother blames the Stephen King novels
on her antique nightstand the flashlight under covers.
But in September 1995 a different sort of dream,
a boy and an upcoming night a school dance.
Paul Keller a senior to her sophomore, tall and gangly
prone to tripping over his white Converse All Stars.
He was cool in that he had a lot of friends
he didn’t just hang out with the surfers and the Mormons,
though he did attend the local LDS chapter and
his bleached hair always stuck up in the ocean breeze.
Mormons were dangerous to her
(she was a good little Christian girl, after all)
which no doubt added to the appeal
(What about a wedding? Would he convert?
She wouldn’t be allowed in the temple, right?
And what about their kids? Surely he would permit her
to raise their children in the church?)
But why was that little girl so anxious?
(she thought she was so mature back then
so wise beyond her years
but her purple lipstick gave her away)
So fraught with thoughts of what ifs and what thens
and will he, or rather when will he—
always the optimist and the planner
and she just wanted to know
if he would be a good kisser and
if he would be a good boyfriend.
Was it normal to daydream about luring him
over to her house to her bedroom covered
in posters of STP and Pearl Jam
so that she could plant one on him
while they “practiced dancing” before the magical night?
Look at that pretty girl, flat on her quilted bed
staring up at Scott Weiland and actually believing
a school dance would be magical
just because it was called “Homecoming”,
even though it was held in the crummy school gym
garnished with gaudy streamers
and blue and white balloons.
Aurora, has anyone ever told you that you are beautiful?
You’re right, that’s too cliché
and demeaning to group you with everyday beauty.
Hot damn girl you know how to bring it.
The undulating curves and caresses
the flashes followed by coy addresses
the teasing the tickling the beckoning
you enthrall like no other.
I have never seen anything like you
and I fear that I never will again
but at least I can die tomorrow
knowing that I witnessed the incomparable glory
of the one and only
Welcome to Spring in the Northwest
but like the way north Northwest
Like the where are we on the map Northwest
Alaska, the Last Frontier
the Big Dipper on a navy blue flag
where there are more men than vaginas
“where the odds are good
but the goods are odd”
where you drive past moose crossings
and the Chena River at every turn.
Snow piled upon snow piled upon ice
and gosh darn it if you don’t slip
every fourth step.
I see green fighting through barren brown
and I know it seems impossible
but I swear we have seen the forest multiply
in just five days.
Don’t peel the birch off the birch trees
(but who would do such a thing?)
and ignore the bedraggled hitchhikers
boring their eyes into your sunglasses
flicking their thumbs at your breasts
and whatever you do
keep your gas tank full and your truck
at the ready.
Cesar Chavez, Cesar Chavez
A man, Mexican American,
Lacy Telles, not Tell-us
Biking down the streets of San Francisco
Crossing Cesar Chavez Street
Not paying attention at first
Until I biked by Cesar Chavez Elementary
Until I got a day off of school
Until I took a picture of the mural
in the Mission District, rainbow eyes
inside the weathered face.
I didn’t know that Cesar Chavez
was a pioneer, a leader, a man
willing to stand
up for human rights, Chicano rights
(And do you know what Chicano means?)
And not just Chicanos, but workers.
Workers exploited, abused,
you know the story
but just because you’ve heard it all before
does not mean you know.
The parade that parades down the streets
of the Mission does not tell the tale
of the man who fasted
does not tell the tale
of the man who prayed
does not tell the tale
of the man who fought
for the freedom of others,
not just his children, but yours too.
And if you are a farm worker
March 31st isn’t just another day
on your calendar
and if you are a union worker
you know that these things are never easy,
have never been easy
And if you, like me, find yourself
riding a bicycle down the spine
of the San Francisco history book,
past the produce markets and
taquerias of Valencia Street,
remember the man
Si, se puede.
Two a.m. and no-one is home
Turn off the lights, put down the phone
Crawl into bed with only a book
Pages of words to fill every nook
No work, no school, no paycheck worries
Only space for vibrant stories
Solitude a New York fight
In darkness do I see the light
Look in the fruit basket, pushing aside
the uneven orbs of citrus until you find
the dark and malleable egg,
the fruit posing as a vegetable,
bright green enveloped by dark green.
Where do you come from, avocado?
I make nachos, and I think
“Make sure to invite ol’ A to this fiesta”.
I stir fry peppers and green beans
in soy sauce and lemon;
we all know it wouldn’t taste the same
without you, Avocado.
Pasta and panzanella salad?
Bellissimo! Buon appetito!
It just doesn’t make sense, Avocado.
You’re that actor they cast
as the villain in that one movie,
the father in the next,
Santa Claus in the holiday feature,
and then as the bumbling genius who gets
the pretty lady and saves the world.
How can you be so many things to
so many people?
And do you know what??
I saw you in a smoothie the other day.
What the hell, Avocado?
Someone needs to put you in your place,
before you spread yourself too thin.
Pick a cuisine, already, quit showing up
on every menu in every type of restaurant.
It’s flashy, and frankly, kind of
Ok, ok, ok, I take it back.
Dear A, I love you.