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  • Writer's picturePeg Larkin

Learning To Walk Alone

These days

I stand beside you

Trying not to tap my toes

While you sniff and meander

While you look up to watch with awe

The birds in flight.

I wait, while you search

For your youth

Just out of reach, like that chicken bone

I pulled from your jaw, clamped shut, so long ago.

While you scratch in the dirt

For the days when you

Lunged at the leash,


For nothing more than the air

Your chance to read the newspaper

As a neighbor once described,

This daily ritual of ours.

The days turn to weeks

And the weeks to years

I scratch my head, and the fur

Behind your ears

And wonder at the time gone by

The way our legs ache now, when we are finished,

Me and you

Sipping tea, and splashing water

Around the metal bowl

Which is higher now, so you don’t have to

Bend so low

And how we lay beside each other

You on the rug by the wall

And me on the couch

Your soft, feathery tail

Carrying bits and pieces, leaves and mulch


Brushing up against my bare feet.

Just the other day

I let you take the lead

And I saw how the heart of you,

Still leaps and bounds

Forward, but back also

To when time was a sunny morning with nothing else to do

You take me on our old route,

By the beautiful homes

That have stood for a hundred years

The wide streets and the flowering trees

Perfumed, like nostalgia

Like a good past, gentle and soft and safe

We follow the sidewalks

And the long way, back toward home

Because the sun is shining and we think,

Memory will carry us farther today,

But then, you pull up, limping

Your eyes search mine

For solace, a way to explain

How the body betrays.

While I wait, take another few steps

Encourage you forward

While I suggest we stop

Sit awhile on the bench

While I bury my face in the golden crown of your head

As the prayer I’ve carried throughout this long year

Whispers in your ear,

Not yet.

I must learn to walk alone

And whisper something else

Into those brown eyes

That have only always asked for

Two things: treats

And to let you love me.

Which is to say, to let you be as you always were.

As you always are.

I must learn to walk alone

To come home and find you

Stretched out, waiting,

Relieved to see me, but sorry too, I know.

I must learn

To greet you with a serene smile

To bury my heart in yours and tell you

That it is all enough, really.

That I am learning to walk alone

Lay back down now, and rest.


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