how to lose

My friend, Jodi, lost her dog today. I felt a certain love for Molly because she looks like my Cleopatra, who is old and sometimes lame. I am always worried about my family’s fragility when it comes to our animals.

A long time ago, I wrote this poem about the loss of two of my dogs. And because I’m already crying, I thought it would be all right to reprise it at this time and rededicate it to Jodi. I wish the title were more honest, that the poem actually told us how to lose. As if there were a way.

how to lose

first you drown.
by force of shock
shock of force.
you can almost touch
a breath with your hand.
now you thrash toward it
splashless kicks to surface
but you drown.
now go limp.
the near-infinite sea
the color of deep
the smell of dark
the taste of black.
now wallow.
you and the ocean dogs
bay at moonless night
howl at sunless day
whimper as the tides shift.
you and the ocean dogs.

they say that grief is reduced
by half each year
that fresh death
goes half stale
then half again.
Ten years of halves
of halves
of halves
and you can still reach down
and touch it
still break it open
with a nail,
still crawl back inside it
grief as comfort
as old friend.

when he becomes
a phantom limb
dangling by your side
silent and painless
you will sink less
by half and half again.

but when another goes
the drowning will be deeper
the moaning will undulate
like the voice of ghosts
and you and the ocean dogs
will gnaw at every old wound.
you and the ocean dogs
will sit.


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