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Buddy and I
Mike Orlock

The streets around my house are aflame with fall
as Buddy and I make our daily rounds.
There’s a briskness to these days of late October,
a crispness to the sound leaves make
skittering in the curb,
and a smoky tang lingers in the air.
If Buddy notices he doesn’t care.

He keeps his nose pressed to the ground
(no telling what new smells are there)
and pulls me by the lead from tree to shrub,
as if he’s the one taking me for a walk
and is impatient that I grasp all he wants to share.

We have a sort of understanding, he and I,
if a dog can think along those lines:
I’ll pause long enough for him to sniff out things
at every post and pole or sign
if he’ll pretend to listen when I talk
and answer with a lick from time to time.

I still call Buddy “Little Pup”
although he’s anything but a puppy anymore,
having turned twelve of my years this past summer.
People tell me that’s old for a dog his size,
and I realize that’s true;
his muzzle, once brindled brown, is now white
and cataracts nibble at his sight.
Where once he’d charge across the yard
after any squirrel or rabbit brazen enough to test him,
he now labors to his feet to sniff the air and look.  
But I’ve slowed down a step or two myself.

Like alternating chapters in a book,
Buddy’s time and mine seem juxtaposed.
It’s in the quiet of these autumn afternoons,
with Buddy a black shadow at my feet,
that the grief I can’t help but presuppose
tends to dissipate in a blizzard of falling leaves.

Neither of us look with much enthusiasm to winter:
Buddy struggles to climb the piled snow
in search of those remembered places that
still carry a scent of himself;
and I dread the chill that seeps like wet 
through my shoes and socks,
and the lengthening nights that close like the lid of a box.

© by Mike Orlock.

Used with the author’s permission.


Mike Orlock is a retired high school English and American History teacher who splits time between the Chicago suburbs and a vacation home in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. He has been married 37 years to his high school sweetheart and inspiration, Liz. His short stories, poems, and reviews have appeared in a variety of publications such as Reporter-Progress newspapers, The Peninsula Pulse, VerseWisconsin, TriQuarterly, and the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets annual calendar.



Post New Comment:
Dreading the chill and nights that close the lid on my twilight, leaving me alone in the night. Thanks.
Posted 10/29/2013 09:48 PM
Loved this poem. Dog owners, or dog lovers can relate.
Posted 10/28/2013 10:47 AM
Larry Schug:
As a person with an older dog and one who's "seen this movie many times, I really appreciate this poem. Of course, the only response can be to learn well the lesson dogs teach us constantly, which is to live in the here and now. Good work, Mike!
Posted 10/27/2013 07:33 PM
so true; loved the ending; loved it...Judy
Posted 10/27/2013 05:11 PM
Wilda Morris:
Excellent. What a strong ending. In addition to the lines already mentioned, I really like "cataracts nibble at his sight." Such a creative verb!
Posted 10/27/2013 03:18 PM
Mike. This is a really good poem, not just about Buddy, but about not looking "with much enthusiasm to winter". Great job.
Posted 10/27/2013 03:12 PM
A very sweet poem!
Posted 10/27/2013 11:21 AM
Love "the grief I can't help but presuppose/tends to dissipate in a blizzard of falling leaves. Patty Stubel
Posted 10/27/2013 10:28 AM
The complexity more than justifies the length.
Posted 10/27/2013 09:14 AM
A bittersweet write and an experience that I have also known. Very well penned!
Posted 10/27/2013 09:07 AM
Janet Leahy:
Love that bargain between man and dog "a sort of understanding" where "he'll pretend to listen." Thanks Mike.
Posted 10/27/2013 07:07 AM
Ross Kightly:
Who knows along what lines a dog thinks? I certainly don't. But I know this poem bites [in the most benevolent way of course]. Many thanks Mike.
Posted 10/27/2013 05:22 AM

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