—Taylor Graham, Placerville
The old dog startles from sleep
on his cedar-bed. He grumbles low
in his throat, almost
a growl. What dreams woke him?
Nightmare is a closet shadow,
labyrinth, or your hand
groping for a splinter, foxtail, shard,
exploding rocks. Door-locks
have teeth. What terrors
dominate a dog's dreams? He has no
words but the flare in his eye.
You've had such dreams
refusing speech, and woken up
trying to grab the word
by the throat but it's escaped
between door and sill, clutching its
knife, its knowledge lost
on the journey to words. The old
dog gives chase,
disappearing into the dark.
IDYLL WITH SHEPHERD-DOG
The sable puppy has discovered how much
larger the world than she imagined
in her first of spring. Released to nature,
her own—the one, unrepeatable life. Watch her
leap the low rock wall, flashing the white
of pantaloons as she careens
down the swale in search of her whole five
acres filled, today, with autumn, this
golden moment, the only time there is; alive
and hungry as a pasture of sheep.
She's ready to meet the next season,
a winter's snow; ewes fading into the dark
of their barn; the old ram,
agate eyes at the edge of her world.
NAMES ON THE WIND
The wind warned us to stay inside.
It was snapping oak leaves off the trees,
sending them in swirls
past the windows too fast to read.
Each leaf had a name
unwritten. In the field, filaree and vetch
called green names. In shelter
of a great live-oak, the sheep chewed
their cud of remembrance. But
it was the wind that caught
our attention. We hung onto our
heads so they wouldn't blow away.
The names were just storm-
drift, heaping up in berms, filling up
the driveway; the room
a-swirl with unshoveled memory.
—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento
Cody is a stately dog,
with head atop a giraffe's neck.
This double breed of yellow lab-
golden retriever does not retrieve
but casts his glance toward
a mudded toy rat thrown
to the garden corner.
The command to fetch,
run… move is unheeded
as his trembling legs tell of more
than hesitation. This terribly
timid dog licks my ankle,
distracting us from the task at hand.
A bird chirp from the neighbor's yard
startles him. He ducks behind me,
head lowered, ears cocked.
Through the patio window and into
the family den I see a portrait
of this stately dog, he head held
high and proud.
OLD HUNTING DOG
—Carol Louise Moon
In the crisp days of autumn
hot breezes mute his distant bark,
the happy wanderer's song
of his canine heart.
The autumn hunt is on. He'll be
padding his way back to me
with a drowned duck in his strong
jaw—or, maybe not.
His eyes, moist with vitality
will greet me from his trail. Add
more to this great joy—I'll see
the wagging of his tail.
—Carol Louise Moon
My old dog dreams himself to sleep,
soft hair of muted gray,
soft breath in autumn's day.
This thought of him I'll always keep
inside my slowing heart
and mind—set apart
for more last days, for when I weep.