December 10, 2022
Limping Uphill through the Mist, I Consult My Dead Dog and Dream of
Indianapolis and the Woman Who is Not Yet There
This Texas sky looms grayer, presses down
as my eyelids flicker, avoiding the swirl.
Damp and shivering, I think of her dark hair
highlighting the quilted bed, and I long
to deliver fresh coffee, ease myself down, favorite
mug in one hand, the other reaching for her hip.
The art of living requires flexibility, and we bend
and stretch constantly, yet find the incremental gains
insufficient to loosen our limbs. Can we harness
love, I ask my dead dog, control our physiological
reactions to words and hope? He woofs,
nods wisely, and sniffs the curb. How do
we justify inflicting pain on another to ease
our own? In reply, he lifts his leg and marks the
lamp post. We continue walking uphill. A cardinal
blazes a path through the mountain laurel, and
a diesel F-250 snarls down the block, tail lights
winking in the fog. Tell me why I seek advice only
from the dead, why I've grieved a life away among
others, in solitude, and how late-night fantasies
dismember themselves, dispersing their pieces
in the skies and stock ponds of my aging dreams.
I want to be grounded, I say, yet aloft. Dry, but
floating, with her, somewhere, anywhere – in
Kentucky or New Mexico, Indiana or Texas – it
doesn't matter. The dog snaps off a high-pitched,
jubilant bark, shakes, casting intangible droplets, then
shimmers into the next moment before I can
say goodbye or admit my guilt. Look, I say to the space
he never occupied. Everyone wants to be happy.
At the corner I pause and consider the options: right,
left, or turn around. Choosing, I lean, step forward.
Originally published in Buddha’s Not Talking, winner of the 35th annual Slipstream Poetry Chapbook competition
© the author
by Robert Okaji
Robert Okaji lives in Indiana with his wife, stepson and cat, among hundreds of books. His work has appeared in various literary journals, including Evergreen Review, The Big Windows Review, Threepenny Review, and orangepeel.