Old Hilary


Hilary doesn’t wag her tail anymore.
I don’t know when she stopped;
It happened so slowly.
At night she bumps into things—gently—
And freezes at the prospect of backing up
On the slippery, tile, cul-de-sac of the bathroom.
Her thin haunches waver
Over unsteady legs,
And she sneezes with embarrassment
And fluffs out with a shake
If she stumbles up stairs.
She sleeps through thunderstorms now,
And I am the one, who lies awake,
Wondering at her oblivion.

Beggar still,
She “points” the refrigerator
Or uses head-on-lap and soulful eyes
To beseech me for chicken scraps
That her nose knows are on the table.
Outside, where her nose is in command,
I heel perfectly to her walk.
Her wagless tail still banners high
When she’s marked her shrinking territory.
I marvel that she still runs downhill,
Hips careening wildly from side to side
To dive headlong into the grass
And spin belly-up in joy.
Homecomings are jubilant,
For a dog whose bark greets my car engine,
Who burrows through my legs,
Her quick pants
Punctuated by happy sneezes and grunts,
Her body still electric
To the love in my touch.

Arlington, MA 1989