To an Old Dog Named Lucy*

The number of steps to the escape hatch
and the lake of grass that’s in the backyard,

the distance to the sidewalk of sun and
the warmth that makes your tail tick-tock,

directions west to food and water
and east to the winding carpeted stairs—

behind your silenced ears and blind eyes
there’s a map imprinted like this, I believe,

a canon of senses unknowingly saved
for the geography of your last years.

Remember at night you’d sprint up the stairs
to dream with your family, breathe the same air?

Now you follow the map to those stairs
and it tells you when to lift your front paw:

you’ve bumped the edge of dark with your shoulder
and turning your face from side to side

you envision the stubborn bulk of stairs and
remember that here the blackness gets blacker,

but there’s the ascent. Each day becomes this,
a series of small blind steps you must take

in order to climb the Everest of age,
a collection of brave purchases made

so you can rest in quiet and dream
in a sliver of sunlight that warms a rug.

.    .    .

*My daughter’s dog, the first of five mini-schnauzers in our families, now elderly with diabetes complications, but no complaints, and at age 14 her perseverance inspires me.

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