is a thing you leave empty
most of the day, except the dog
who spits liquid on the bamboo floor,
upset the moment you depart, licks it up
then dozes everywhere but on his bed.
You don’t know how you know this
as you stand beside your briefcase at the door,
keys pocketed, patting his downy head
as he huff huff huffs what you receive
as a plea for you to stay – see once yourself
how dust settles, or mid-morning light reflects
on that painting. We always come home
you tell him, and wonder if he, too,
is thinking of his young companion
who used to return sooner than the old humans,
his car engine clatter-banging and his bass boost
shivering the window panes to wake
the dog, signal an after-school reunion,
the musk of the boy’s frowzy beard and breath
when their foreheads pressed together,
the dog’s name cooed into the canine’s scratchy ear,
singing a sort of hymn about walking, treats,
a belly rub – and for his snout – some kisses.
The vet said dogs don’t perceive what’s a short time
or a long one. A brief eternity, perhaps, is something
to believe in. Your hand twists the knob. Be good,
you say to the dog and to the air. Be good.
Another Elegy for the Arctic
Now, I’m unsure who either of us needs.
Debits nearly never match the credits,