Kicking up Leaves and Rolling Around in Dead Things

Your reward for taking your monthly bath
even though you scratched me on the chest
as I foolishly crouched down with you in the tub, naked
is the same as it ever was–we’ll wait until you dry off
then let you off your leash at the local park
which is consistently muddy in the spring
so you can get unspeakably filthy again

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A Love Poem for Grendel

I love you for all the same reasons that you love living
your paws pitter pattering on the edge of the cliff
when I take you hiking, and then running back
to circle around my unsteadier feet
imploring me to look, come see

your mad rush for breakfast in the morning
and dinner at night even if it’s the same
dry kibble, your pleasure when it isn’t
your leaping and bounding through the snow banks
when I am cold and just want to go back in

and your hatred of the sad movies I sometimes watch
which make me whimper, the way you gaze into my drippy eyes
and tug at my sleeve until I turn it off and take you outside

Born of Dreams

A study has emerged in the popular news network
which means it’s probably completely unfounded
that dogs dream of their owners while cats dream of hunting

I apologize to my dog as I pluck him from the end of the bed
where he lays sleeping so that I can hold him
no matter, he flops back down onto my neck
as if he is deboned-not even a sigh escapes

I wonder what must it be like to give himself over
from me, who is holding him annoyingly close
to the other owner, who looks like me, but is born of dreams
when I pick him up, he must switch between us

I know he still prefers me because he comes
out of such a dead slumber as this
to dutifully follow me from the bathroom to the kitchen
my boyfriend said once, he will always be a puppy
because he is small, enthusiastic, clumsy
but I know that he is not done switching over

one day, with arthritic legs, he might watch me from the bed
wistfully as I walk from the bathroom into the kitchen
half wishing he had the energy to follow but half still asleep
and some day further, he will give himself over completely
I just hope his dream owner loves him as thoroughly
and treats him well as I will still want to
when she takes him into her custody

A Rescue Plan for the Woman who Lays in Bed Whining

Tyra would not get out of bed on her thirtieth birthday
or let me celebrate with her in any way
although she left the door open so I could let myself in
she tucked the blankets into all her edges
including her feet, with only her face bare
stubborn and grimacing

I tried to untuck her for a tickle into laughter
but she had armed herself against that favored tactic
I told her I would buy anything she wanted
or that she could buy it herself
because she was so much more successful than me
–nothing.

Then I huffed up my frustration and almost turned away
I muttered, Well, you’ll have to give up
And keep me company anyways
Because all of the idiots are going to do stupid things
And start dying off around this age

She didn’t say she didn’t care or cry or moan
so I looked over at her to find my reward
that she was grinning, so that was what worked
she slowly dressed and let me take her out
for dinner and dessert

now I refuse to answer my boyfriend
because I am thirty and unlike Tyra
spend almost all my time sleeping
so he prompts me with the baby voice
he uses to represent our puppy
a voice I could never argue with

and says, I have one hero, my mommy!
Oh really, Grendel. Why is that? Mommy hasn’t ever
accomplished anything but giving you belly rubs
and making you dog food omelets.
Not true, mommy! You saved me three times!
Really?
Yes.

The time there was a price on my head
You saved me from the Russians in Lynn
Who kept me in a cage and lied about my heritage
as if being a purebred would make me worth more than I already am
you saw past my knotted hair, bad breeding and ill manners
and paid an exorbitant price for me, always saying I was worth every penny

then at the dog park, when that scary dog put me in his mouth
and shook me while I screamed and bled
and all the other pet owners stood stunned
you ran past them, punched that dog in the mouth
and rushed me off to the hospital
where you held my paw and sang me songs

and then when our house burned down
you picked me up before you even put your shoes on
and carried me out snuggling my nose into your jacket
to protect me from smoke inhalation
and cooed to me so I wouldn’t be frightened
and rubbed my feet so they wouldn’t be as cold
as your own feet were getting, bare against the snow

you have done way more for me
mommy, than Tyra could ever have dreamed
of doing good for anyone by the time she was thirty
so how is she more successful than you, again?
I don’t know, I answered, but I’m feeling hungry
so I got up smiling, and dressed slowly for our dinner party

The cue for your next English lesson

You are certain throughout this disappointing, lonely week
while I am dealing with midterms and trainings
that Saturday morning will be ours
the weekly reckoning of our relationship
a day on which you can reasonably expect
your fancy dog food omelet
with carrots mixed in
and a luxurious belly rub
before we explore the deepest recesses
of our local park

But this morning, you are desolate
because I wake up late and have to head
to a mandatory lecture
and because you don’t understand the phrase
Honey, I’ll be back in an hour!

Breakfast with the King

No one believes that my dog can be vicious
Since none of them are charged with his care in the early morning
when he is at his most demanding, obnoxious, and even violent
stomping around my bed and torso like a littler Napoleon
stepping on the very roots of my hair to pull them from my skull
which produces my shriek of course, but also a sound like Velcro
and then raises a paw to tip over my opened water bottle on the bedside table
looking me dead in the eye before he does it—all of this happens in under a minute

of course, he could’ve spent the last hour and a half asking more politely
before he resorted to this. It’s entirely possible I just slept through it
but there I go again, making excuses for him

after breakfast, like a beloved cult leader, he rewards my service lavishly
when we get back into bed, he stretches his back with his paws against my chest
produces my very favorite tiny sound from the back of his throat when he yawns
a sound like “ah!” and then he nestles up into my neck and kisses my earlobe

Happiness is

Scratchy paws and a soft belly

Forever scrambing to get nearer to me

Careful that each part of his body

Legs, tail, chin, belly

Is atop some part of mine

I breathe out

He breathes in

Our air becomes recyclable

My hands are buried deep inside his fur

Until my lover approaches

Flips him on his back

And tickles him:

Scaroocharoocharooch ah!

Scaroocharoocharooch ah!

He sings