Four times a day and twice during the night
through all the relentless
ice-locked mid-winter days,
my widow-neighbor carries her dog,
a little honey-colored mutt,
down the stairs from her second floor apartment
into the sharp zero cold.
It’s actually more like lugging an inert body,
Ollie, his name is, old now and ill.
He whines and she knows
something is hurting badly—
soon she will have to put him to sleep,
she can’t do this much longer, old herself,
his weight unsteadying her on the steep stairs.
She cries while she tells me this,
as she lowers him down
to the ice-covered snow,
where he turns and turns, slipping a little
before he finally settles down,
the lemon juice stain spreading out
across the whiteness.
She says she’s fighting off grief,
and not for the first time,
then stretches her back,
tired as it is, and bends to lift him again,
smoothing his long fur
with the practiced strokes of a lover.
Patricia Fargnoli, the New Hampshire Poet Laureate from 2005 to March 2009, is the author of five collections of poetry. Her recent book of poems, Then, Something, was published by Tupelo Press in 2009. Duties of the Spirit (Tupelo Press, 2005) won the N.H. Jane Kenyon Poetry Award for an Outstanding Book of Poetry, and her first book, Necessary Light, (Utah State University Press, 2000), won the May Swenson Poetry Award. Her work has appeared in various literary journals, including Nimrod, Ploughshares, Poet Lore, Poetry International, and Yalobusha Review.