I’m starting a new life this summer, with a new friendship that may take us both to our last breath. My new partner is a sixteen-week-old puppy, and her name is Dash. As Dash and I head into our life together, I must honor my first baby, Ginger, who died when she was almost seventeen years old, on August 2, 2003. This poem was written a year after she died, as I moved into a new home in Winter Park and started a new life without her and without a husband.
What Is Left of Her
I’ve been without her a year now.
I own a new house. I eat with new friends.
I laugh, I work, I water the plants, I worry about the war.
And on a lower shelf of the bookcase in my new bedroom,
a small cardboard box contains what is left of her.
I smell her puppy skin.
I see her dark puppy eyes.
I rest my cheek against her hot, smooth tummy.
I feel her nose in the palm of my hand.
I hear her contented sigh when she turns in sleep.
I wake early to walk her.
I cradle her in my arms,
her body against my chest the deepest solace.
I know the mother’s watchfulness.
I bask in the envy of those who recognize her charm.
I hear the joyful yip for play, the sassy bark for food, the hungry whine for attention.
I find her on the deck, next to the aspidistra, dozing in the sun.
I know which chair she would favor, which pillow she would own.
I keep her bath towel in the linen closet.
Her bowl sits next to the everyday dishes in my new cabinets.
Her leash coils in the top drawer of my nightstand, like a snake ready to strike.