So long for her face of grace,
black nose, brown eyes
often hidden below the fall of her
goose white and raven black fur.
I am busy, working,
shot like an arrow
She sometimes bounds to me,
a thunder like a herd of buffalo,
sometimes sidles up silent
and just sits, unusually patient.
She wants my right hand.
Oh, how I give and give and give.
Spending the pitch of my life in that fire.
I offer the hand, reaching to give,
to pet, let my fingers splay and twirl
in her long river of coat.
She pulls her head, turns away,
This is not why I have come to you,
I have a gift you must receive.
The hand now obeys her wishes,
and so begins the kiss that lasts and lasts and lasts.
The stroke of pink tongue that covers
each cell of my hand with careful grace.
My webs are specially tended,
the bridges, finger to finger to thumb.
My old hand sunken to dry riverbed,
Soaked with love.
Isn’t this church
or the thing most holy?
Proffering such grace,
my hand turns grateful.
Sweet and inspired tongue,
I become her landscape.
Surrendered, it becomes us.
Nothing, in these frequent moments,
nothing else matters.
Such a slow student at receiving.
So many decades of giving away more than what I owned.
Every lick strokes me to know her truth.
I adore your smell.
I taste your smell.
You need tending.
This is your time.
I need to love you whole now.
It is all I know or care about.
The walk, the ball, and the thing you do,
using those too fast fingers to click things on any box.
Did you know I smell your sorrow,
watching your mother die slowly?
All your life’s losses and gains?
Did you know I smell your love of animals?
Your sleepless night?
Your bear who sits nearby?
I taste your history and your present.
I love to kiss you whole.
Only when she finishes will she allow
my fingers to curl in her fur,
scratch that one place on her cheek
that makes her eyes close dreaming.
She knows my hand now as I know her tongue,
Exploring her again and again and
Always for the first time
feeling her puppy joy,
her now fierce bark,
her moments when, perhaps,
she dreams of sheep.
Knowing far more than me,
when I have given all I really can,
without apology or second thought,
she trots away.
Lily, I call, Lily.
But she is too wise to listen.
She knows we have loved
and now, we will carry it.
I turn my hand back to my work.
Words grow softer.
Words frame themselves
now made of licks,
and the pink kisses.
This is hers to teach me.
She came for this.
I am very slow, very human.
I am learning,
Listening to the teaching of a new tongue.