When you greet him, he drops
his backpack as if it were something else
entirely—a platter too hot to carry,
a shovelful of dirt. He pauses
so long you think he will just ignore
your Hey, so how are you? Then he says
Not so good.
He wears his lean back like a dark shawl,
his eyes frayed like fringe. You
know more than you should
about him, though not
enough. Once you wondered
if he might hurt himself.
He’s been broken—justly or<
unjustly—no one knows
the difference, least of all he.
You do not know how long
you have waited when he surprises you.
I had to put my dog down today.
Though you are relieved to know
this grief has a name, you cannot
bring yourself to ask
what the dog was called,
even its sex. You ask only
What kind? How old?
You had not known
he had a dog, a chocolate lab,
his pet since he was six.
But he is talking now, the young man fresh
from death, telling you he always
knew it would
be hard to lose the dog,
but—to have to decide
to put the old dog down:
It felt like I had to be God.