Jeremy Radin - Poetry
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
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
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
into the dark…