If I stepped out of my body I would break*
into a dead run, and I do, barefoot,
suddenly and strangely naked,
down the deck steps, over the jutting rocks
and almost total absence of grass—
it’s a yard for dogs—and there she is,
latte streak against the still-sleeping weeds,
sniffing around the fence-edge,
considering the bricks, tilting her head at me
my arms shorten to forelegs,
hands become paws, nose
a formidable and sensitive snout,
and just above where my butt once cleaved
now sprouts a rascally tail
wagging furious loop-de-loops,
she and I bound by the same boundless code,
digging up the bones of bygone years,
barking in harmony at the garbage truck,
leaping at all small moving things.
*First line taken from James Tate’s poem, “A Blessing”
For I will consider my three-legged dog Berkeley.
For she has lived a long, full, cheese-block-eating, coffee-slurping, floor-licking life.
For she has barged through to sixteen, and barges on.
For she is a great conductor of deep feeling.
For she was once four-legged but cancer bloomed.
For she can pant.
For she drinks much water and would drink, I declare, the breadth and depth of the
For she has the softest head.
For I scratch behind her ears and believe for a moment I have it all figured out.
For I find solace in her white muzzle.
For it is the muzzle of the holy spirit.
For I know deep down she is a saint, and seeks the same.
For I have made for her a mighty resumé.
For she has skills: doctor, chef, advice columnist, meteorologist.
For no one can say she is not in constant pursuit.
For she tears into her senior formula food with the gusto of a puppy.
For I need not set an alarm.
For there is a thump like thunder from under the bed, and I pull her out and make it
possible for her to stand.
For she is the dog I have always wanted to be.
For love is entwined with impatience and anxiety.
For when she is pacing and unsettled, I would give my leg for her to tell me
what she wants.
For we give her much for what we presume is pain.
For she tests the stairs before she commits; here she is, hopping up, and I swear
she is smiling.
For she wants only to be near.
For after all she has every right to smile.
For she follows me into the study, where the cushy bed awaits.
For this is a house of counsel and consolation.
For over the backyard I stand guard as she scouts out the best place to conduct
For I clean her up when she leaks.
For I shall fill her water bowl until the river runs dry.
After Christopher Smart’s “Jubilate Agno.”
The number one song was “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”
Everywhere. In crevices and creeks.
Tire-flattened, but alive.
Me, riding in to clinic
absent-minded, outpatient high,
reading nothing into the potholed pavement,
majoring in undecided.
Steve Goeller, friend,
inpatient yet again,
sat in the cramped waiting room and stared straight ahead.
Fever spiking, white count wavering,
he let it be known
he hated that song, its fake-reggae bleached-bland
sentiment, its simplicity.
Don’t worry, be happy. Really.
His wife’s laughter boomed, filled the whole floor.
She trash-talked Steve’s numbers,
talked up the docs, talked to strangers,
could have won over the walls.
He didn’t agree or not,
didn’t curse or lash out, just looked
like a man who could no longer be surprised.
Bobby McFerrin singing rings around himself
a cappella. Another day at the office.
First release, it flopped.
Second release, shot up like a rocket.
I had the CD. Simple pleasures,
silo in which to stockpile belief.
I know it made Mom feel much better
sitting with me. In no time
we were in the lobby and out the door,
a centimeter closer to health.
Goodbye to Grover the parking lot attendant,
hello Pontiac, hello traffic,
left on Wisconsin, weighing dinner options,
right on 27th, over the little bridge—
don’t worry—past the big brewery
and there turning to inhale—
be happy—the heady ferment of bread.
In the Lobby of the Same-Sex Residence
It was as if she didn’t know
we’d gone to grad school together
or I’d helped her write three fourths of her thesis
or we’d driven to California and back
or fought like dogs, or I’d entertained
the thought of stranding her in Texas
even as I was past anxious for us to fuck
and put whatever this was
behind us, or that we’d taken
more than a few photos of one another,
some unwittingly sexy,
or the ones of her I was thinking of
were making me crazy. But she knew;
she had to. And here we sat, at either end
of a sea-green sofa, just her
hunched into herself, arms crossed,
just my hands clasped in my lap.
Her sweet proofreading gig was no more,
but not to worry, she said,
she was getting by. I had to admit
living in this monument to morality
suited her: affordable, gated,
other women sitting in high-backed chairs
sharing news softly, so as not to be shushed.
She got up, apologized,
said she just wasn’t herself tonight.
We hugged like distant cousins,
made vague plans: maybe Sunday,
maybe the Statue or a gallery.
The elevator swallowed her. I made myself
stay put, watch the soft pastel walls,
the grandfather clock approaching the time.
Michael Diebert, a native of Kingsport, Tennessee, is the author of Life Outside the Set. He serves as poetry editor for The Chattahoochee Review and teaches writing and literature at Perimeter College, Georgia State University. Recent poems have appeared in Tusculum Review, Muse /A, Pembroke Magazine, and Free State Review. A two-time cancer survivor, Michael lives in Avondale Estates, Georgia, with his wife and dogs.