He follows you into the woods
as always, staying
within reach of a stray touch: out of habit, yes,
and because there’s no reason to believe
this day will end
any differently than others.
Were he to know
the spade’s grim purpose—blade
laced with rust, old earth—
he might plea for the earned mercy
of not seeing the betrayal coming.
But he’d still lie down
on the browning grass, place
his graying muzzle
on folded paws and watch
the squirrels shoot up the trees,
thin black lips twitching
with the vestigial excitement
of pursuit. Friend,
does it help to know he’s happy, finally,
to have found his spot in the shade beneath
the Tree-of-Heaven, where
a hundred scents course
the slight breeze, each another missive
from the secret world?
His eyes close, perhaps to remember
a time without the iron weight
in his bowels, joints not yet overrun
with wild tendrils
of pain; perhaps he’s just
enjoying the pleasure of breathing—
the last act of praise—
on a good patch of grass
on this day in time. Regardless,
this is how you’ll remember him: in love
with this cruel and beautiful world;
old Buddha, may his love shatter time.
The sound, when it comes, scatters
the black birds, ricochets
down the valley, blooming
like a black flower. You look to the sky,
feel the breeze rinse your face.
Soon, it will be necessary to breathe—
the way your children once did: full-throated,
and trembling with abandon.