Jeremy Radin - Poetry

On Loving

by Jeremy Radin

            After Aracelis Girmay, after Nazim Hikmet

I do not love my dog. The family dog.

I know this is true

because I told it to my therapist:


I do not love

my dog.

The family dog. 


Cooper” is the name of this dog

I do not love, who plods like a gorged

grizzly through the house, & seems


always to be sleeping

in the exact place you are trying

to walk through, a pile of shine-


sapped treasure, who begs

at the table & when

he doesn’t get what he wants,


lowers ever so gently his slobber-

soaked muzzle onto your pant leg.

I do not love this animal,


this beast I did not ask for.

& the responsibilities of keeping

something alive? I did not ask


for those either, but still find

myself bent over the silo

of dog food in the garage,


scooping the dry kibble

into the bowl, & then cutting up

the Sausage & Egg McMuffin


for his breakfast at the request

of my loving father, but what

kind of loving is that?


Such a youthful sort,

like giving your fish a bit of fresh air.

I think of the article


about the man who walked

his 19-year-old mutt each day

into the lake, holding it up on his chest


to relieve the pain

of its arthritis & I wonder

what kind of person I am, who


can’t even text his friends

on their birthdays.

I saw a person once, here on earth,


do a thing out of such love—

did they calm a weeping stranger?

Obsess over the giving of a gift?


Listen to the old woman speak

of the dragonflies, or the machines

of forgiveness? The point is, I can’t


remember. Because is not

remembering a kind of loving?

The way my grandma’s friend


remembered the expressions

of his parents the last day

he saw them, the face of the guard


who pulled them away from him—

how it came rushing back

when he clutched the paper


my grandma brought him from

Poland, the paper that said where

& how he lost them, such


meticulous records they kept.

& the smoke of them living

in his body until his last day,


curling around his bones,

soaking his voice thick

with phantoms. Cooper,


to begin to love you now

is to permit you unguarded

into my heart, this trembling


mess, yowling for shelter,

shying away from the sunlight.

It means to refer forever


back to the records

of my ambivalence, to lay down

on the floor of the kitchen


with you on the last day

of your life—a fruit fly circling

the nectarines—


as a ponytailed stranger

prepares a needle

while praising gently our mercy.


& I cannot help but notice

that the fluid is pinker

than it ought to be


as from out of our hands you eat

one final McMuffin—

& then, two swift injections…


The air unfolds. A furred light

grasps at the hardwood. & there

is your bowl. & there


is your mangled purple hedgehog.

& there, the garbage bag

we will put you inside of, load you


into the trunk of the car

as we pay the man

who opened the doors of you


from which you left us

behind, & the dread of being

something that leaves behind,


of loving what leaves

behind, the wondering what else

I have waited too long to give


myself over to, or whom, for fear

of being left behind, whose

arms might I be weeping all this into—


yes, I am weeping at last, cradling

your dumb, gorgeous head

in my hands, head I barely held in life,


head I scorned, head I hurried

out of my time, your eyes,

those twin lanterns, my too-late love


winking inside them, moving deeper

& deeper

into the dark…