Poem of the Week, by Robert Okaji

After our dog Petey died it felt like a betrayal to go for a walk without him, without the constant pauses so he could sniff, pee, investigate. I was finally used to hiking without a leash in my hand when we adopted our pup Paco. Now it feels strange when someone else takes him out and I have only myself to account for.

The ghosts of Petey remain: a few black curls clipped the day he died, his old blue collar, his tags, the bright halter and extendable leash that are too big for Paco. The memory of how Petey, after eight months of hard work on his part and mine, heeled at a single command while I’ve never bothered to train small Paco to heel at all – we just keep him on a 4′ lead.

Sometimes we unthinkingly call Paco by his predecessor’s name. Sometimes I wonder if Paco senses the dog who came before him.

While Walking My Dog’s Ghost, by Robert Okaji

I spot a baby rabbit
lying still in a clump of grass
no wider than my hand.

It quivers, but I pretend
not to have seen, for fear
that the dog, ghost or not,

will frighten and chase it
into the brush, beyond
its mother’s range,

perhaps to become lost
and thirsty, malnourished,
filthy, desperate, much

like the dog when we
found each other that hot,
dry evening so long ago.

For more information about Robert Okaji, please check out his website.

Words by Winter: my podcast

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