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Friday, May 22, 2020


by Katherine M. Clarke


Our puppy arrives, six pounds
of squirming golden fluff chirping and burrowing
under my arm, trembling against my breast.

I reach back to my mother’s knee to find
what I’ve forgotten I know, singing
knick-knack paddy whack give the dog a bone

and nestle him into his crate with Mr. Krinkle
whose face he chews off but who still obligingly rustles,
offering rope hands and feet to gnaw on in the night.

As pandemic chaos reigns outside, love grows inside,
my beloved Lily handling and tending this small body
bursting into life, insisting on what he wants and needs

tired or not, frightened or not, a life counting on her.
She walks softly in stocking feet to feel him underfoot
to know when he races over her toes to hide.

Scooped up Micah rides high along her arm,
a pasha attended by his servant.
Firsts abound—sleeping through the night,

tasting snow, eating grass, throwing up.
Accepting a collar and lead as she hustles
him out the side door to the yard.

Victory, cheering, applause. Relief for both.
No need for social distance as the lord of all wriggliness
plays with Delores, a stuffed sheep, and Road-Kill Buzzy,

the flat woodchuck toy. A spiky rubber teething ring
on the shower curtain spread over the living room rug
as if a sphere of the virus had leapt from the television

screen filled with images of tents and stadiums for hospitals
warehouses loaded with coffins, trucks filled with bodies
while we shelter at home, grateful, joy strewn all around.

Katherine M. Clarke is a professor emeritus of Antioch University New England. Her essays and poetry have appeared in Writing it Real, Breath and Shadow, Wordgathering, Oasis, The Sun Magazine, and Northern New England Review.