Our Dog Howling at Sunset
At sunset, the dog howls at sirens in town.
If he were snowbound in Talkeetna,
A hundred miles from nowhere,
What would he howl at instead?
I saw my husband trudging through the frost,
His blue jacket half-tinted orange and red,
“I don’t like the way you sound,” he said
As he left, deserting one who was already lost.
If I were a thousand miles from him now,
Listening to the wolves’ mournful cries,
And my beloved shunning me as he does now,
Would I pretend to believe my lover’s lies?
Or, instead, would it be enough to exist
Where the short summer dies on winter’s grist,
And true love’s a dream born on a dreamer’s mist,
And the one to stay with is the one you’ve just kissed?
If I lived in a land so cruel and hard,
Would I be bargaining with my soul?
If love’s short date were but a moon’s silver shard,
Would he be a passing thought, and my son the whole
Of any future we had scattered out on the snow,
Or caught in the rime-bound trees?
Would I see then what I already know—
That his future lies with himself and not me?
As our wolf howls a timeless wail to the air
I can listen and guess at its season.
I can comfort myself it will always be there,
Beyond human hopes, beyond reason.
Far wiser, the black-furred hound, than I,
To sing out his ancient song.
Waiting, watching, as we struggle and die,
Only to pass his wisdom along.
Waiting, hoping as he does for a touch,
He is made to think that he asks too much--
Waiting for a kind word or loving hand--
Wild and alone, in humanity’s bleak land.
A southern writer once lamented the lack
Of courage in humankind,
And suggested we borrow the strength we see
In the branches of an olive tree.
Yet there’s more courage in the dog-wolf’s cry,
Penned out on our city-cropped lawn,
As if he knows the grief of my son and I
When the man we both love is gone.
“Could we not as well” take a lesson from him,
Our wild and loyal friend?
To howl out our sorrow and loneliness,
Though the pain might never end?
Now, in the twilight I hear my lover return,
With no greeting to me, and I burn
For the summer’s newborn passion I recall.
The twilight wolf’s mourning tells it all:
That we never will have what we had before
That love can die just as well as it’s born,
That a child is the only one who restores
What is lost to the lonesome, the wolves, the forlorn.
July 6, 2001
A long-ago falling out and later mended.