Arts + Scene » Poetry

Gage Canal



We walk dog slow
The old man, his ancient red mutt and me, trailing behind
What a pair they are
The man stooped and the dog unsteady
Back where I grew up
This desiccated place, away from my adopted misty shore
The old man talks
Of the way this greenbelt was saved
The orange groves protected
Now oranges rot rust brown on the ground
In five-acre minimum rectangles
Of the cancer
Both the old man and the old dog have cancer
The old man's prognosis sounds good
The dog's on borrowed time
Of the community of people who walk their dogs here
Of economics that let people starve while oranges rot on the ground
Mallards splash on the canal
Rabbits and ground squirrels bust frantic from the brush ahead
A satisfied red-tailed hawk steals a look from a eucalyptus tree
"Let's go see the horsies, Jackie," the old man says encouragingly
He and the dog plod ahead
I stand, rooted, staring into the canal
Spanning eight feet, if that
Still, it powers contemplation
As water does
When I was 10, I thought there should be fish or at least crayfish in there
I believe it now
On a drunken bet, as a younger man
I waterskied once on this ribbon of green
The ski rope tethered to the bumper of a '72 Vega
A Coors in one hand, the rope in the other
Howling like Johnny Reb at Antietam
A ball of dark moss rolls slowly along the canal's bottom
Like a tiny tumbleweed in a John Ford movie
"Good dog, Jackie, see the horsies?"
The old man's voice is far away, I look up
They pad along slowly, the big dog and big man meandering home
Obstinately living so the other shall live

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