Praying for Barkley

This all goes back to that blank book

I had in the seminary. It was for sketches

and quotes, and the names of flowers

and trees. I kept a list in it, too,

of all the people I’d be praying for.

 

There were no dogs on the list then,

though I did see how one thing

led to another. I’d call up some face

and another would appear – and hey,

who doesn’t deserve a prayer? – so

I’d put ‘em on the list. That’s when I started

falling asleep, halfway, before I was done.

 

Which brings us to Barkley.

I don’t even know the dog.  And there are

others like him – not mine and many

long dead – your Gabbies and Falcons,

your Bimases and Kings of this world.

 

And once your dogs are in, the cats come running,

whining and getting their backs up

when you don’t cooperate. I’d say keep it

to my own race (what’s next, snails? minerals?),

but the way the babies keep coming,

and the new partners – the jilteds and the

Jolies – and with my cousin doing genealogical

research, finding family I never knew even about,

well, what’s the point?

 

I may never stop falling asleep.

Johnny we

Your dish of change included a tie clip

and pocket knife, a book of matches

and ring – all things a boy might like,

and I did.

 

You had that easy way, a calm I never

saw broken. I know better now. Our

pleasure in a river forgets the

dislodging of rocks and trees.

But thank you! Thank you

for keeping it cool

to never be short with me.

 

When I see you now, you’re at the table,

your cards down under flattened palms.

You smile at some joke,

and make a little one of your own.

I see your teeth, the

bushiness of brow behind your glasses.

 

And again: you’re on the porch,

in a fold-up chair.

A car goes by. Grandma’s not ready yet.

In an hour it’ll be too hot. But for now

you’re content. The grass is mowed.

Your shoes are shined.

 

I can’t stop my sweaty play

to sit on the step and hear what you say.

But I’d like to.

I’d like to catch my breath for once

and listen.