Elizabeth Patnoe doted on Barkleigh and now dotes on Beecher in Columbus, Ohio–often at Whetstone Park, with its dog-centered community. She earned a Ph.D. in English from Ohio State University, where she taught English and participated in an assortment of academic activities and where she now is a nurse in neuropsychiatry.
I see it in your eyes
and your walk,
the way you close them more quickly,
walk more slowly,
the way you insist,
even while exhausted,
on following me everywhere--
even as I dash around,
putting olives, nuts, and homemade caramel corn in the living room,
stuffed peppers, corn casserole, and paprika potatoes in the dining room,
dishes on the side bar, candles in the lav,
as I put out more chairs
and relocate your pillows,
push your bowls against the counter.
Even after hours of dining, singing, of talking
about our goals and ghosts and who we were
300 years ago,
even after you rouse from your nap and crawl out
from beneath my arm,
after walking with our guests to the Magic Tree
to lose ourselves for a moment in a million colored lights,
even as I struggle to pick up the plates and put away the perishables,
You struggle harder.
So I carry you up to bed.
By the time I have brushed my teeth,
you are sound asleep against my pillow,
with those slightly wheezy exhalations
you have sometimes started to make
and I could give a damn about the stiffening food, or parties, or anything.
Today, I am tired, too.
You have less to do
as I slow myself down so you will rest,
as I stop to sit on the floor beside you,
touch your silky peach hair
under your homemade blue sweater,
as I watch you, curled up and content in your stuffed chair,
your eyes half closed, but watching me
(You are now woofing in your sleep. I stop this poem
to watch and listen, to wonder what you are dreaming.)
My Beecher Boy, I see Barkleigh in you, again.
I see him in your sometimes clinginess,
the way he was at exactly your age--14.
This week it hit me in the car, as your squeals of delight
were a little more piercing.
It hit me hard:
like Bark, you are loudning to hear yourself better.
At some point, this will stop,
along with your clear, expressive voice--
and I will need to stomp on the floor and clap my hands
to tell you that I’m behind you
or in front of you
or there at all.
I comfort myself right now
only with my unyielding certainty
that you, like Boo, are
with me forever.