I see it in her sinking eyes,
the silence of their gaze--a child
batting at the final thread
of life, nine for nine. Darker days
pass with worry tumbling deep
in its high-walled pit. I see it:
something that says this is the last,
when I touch the curve of her back,
the rise of spine, the uneven quiet
of her response while winter bulks
and burns with its oppression of frost.
I see it in my brother, the care
of each hand as it arches over bone.
There is hunger, but she does not eat--
only laps at a small drinking bowl--
and I tell him this is it, it is now:
but he insists as love does--wandering
dove in the dark cave that is death--
says all he needs to do is feed her.
But I see it at work flashing up
with his number that same day, his voice
quivering as tongue-tapped water;
and I knew he would rescind
our agreement: a leap into the dark
without the interference of barbiturates,
a vet's cold table, two gloved hands
that are more steel than hands. I see
it there, to give in like that: to forsake
a passing in warmth, in a lifelong home
with living hands, the hands that picked her
from a ragtag litter, chosen for her fur--
the taupe, the burnt umber, the chestnut brown--
the hands that cradle her now, I imagine,
after the needle slipped in proboscis-like.
I see it in his final text, his word-choice:
"Lara is dead." I see it
filtered through a lens of tearfulness
as I trek along a lonesome aisle. I see it
as a blanket-covered box outside
against the harsh freeze of midnight
where I knew she rested, where I dared not peek.
Instead, I risked sleep, listening to absence:
her weak, half-toned call
now just that morning's memory. I hear it, even:
early morning drudgery, my brother pouring
boiled water onto our backyard's secluded corner
to work in a shovel, where she'll end
a row of young evergreens. That night, I found him
at her grave, beautified with candles
and a mask of incense. Told me she died in his arms,
how he panicked when she gurgled and twitched
until he couldn't take it--gave the vet the go-ahead.
I see it in his breath as it swam
along the breathing smoke of incense, his admittance:
how he wished for her to just wake up.