By Michael Lewis
LOOKING FOR THE LIGHT
Even though it’s dark as thought, when our dog, Sprocket, and I take our morning constitutional, there is always some light somewhere. There is flashlight, streetlight, moonlight and even cloudlight on days overcast like these. There is always enough light to introduce us to our shadow selves; that faceless old man and black dog who mimic our every stumble and leash pull. Yet their adventures seems so different from our own. As they shovel along the road before us, they stretch and contract just like Plasticman. Sometimes they caper at our feet, while other times they taffy pull behind us as though they are trying to escape. In their landscape, they can walk through trees or tiptoe on the highest branches, birds of odd shape, yet always have something solid at their backs. When Sprocket bends down to sniff his doppelganger dog, old Doppel reaches up to sniff at him, which makes me wonder what it is they wonder about us? In their sideway dimension, are we just two Macy Parade balloons floating overhead? Do they think we are attached only at the feet? Do they worry we will hit some pinprick, burst and fizzle off in flight? Are they concerned they could be blasted into the ground like the shadows of people blown away by the Nagasaki bomb? Do they wake in the night after a dream of hitchhiking forever, ghosts on the road of our last ride? Do they wonder at the possibility of being left to haunt some real estate, rattling tea cups in their grief? Surely their biggest hopes are to live forever in the heartscapes of those who miss us when we’re gone. Hoping at last to find a voice to say all the things we meant to say while we were so busy floating through our mornings, looking for the light.
Putting Shank’s mare through its paces in the early A.M., canine Sprocket and yours untruly, stopped at a yard with a cast iron cutout of a dog, mid-squat, encrusted with the admonishment: “NO!”. “Guess some tailless types don’t know that dogs don’t read”, Sprocket snorted with contempt, “Looks like a perfectly good announcement of a Do-Do Drop Off Zone to me. In Doggie Heaven, there are no signs to ‘Keep Off The Grass’.” “And what, my young nipper, is this Doggie Heaven you’ve been alluding to of late?” That shocked his shorts and pulled him to a sit-still. “Well Kiss My Kibble!” he barked, “Doggie Heaven is only the best Afterstrife there is! A far, far better sandbox than the one they paw off on poor bipeds with no Bowser in their corner. But should you have a furred and frisky friend to go to bat for you; testify to your ability at being good with all higher forms of life, you can bypass an eternity of Virtue-Is-Its-Own-Reward and fast forward to a real Dogbone Paradise. In Doggie Heaven there are no punch-clocks to insure your punctuality, no winged inflight training without the benefit of stomach easers, no constant rounds of choral yodel, no harp music in the elevators and the malls and no fashions that are the sheets. In Doggie Heaven you reunite with your long lost, waggy pal. Take all day walks along the beach with no fatigue, no leashes and nothing to pick up. There are spring lawns ripe for digging, summer fields of get-lost-in-the-grass, mountains of autumn leaves and great dollops of snow that licks up just like cream of ice. The sun shines all day and at night, the moon is always howling full. Every park is a ball park where kong is king. The Fireplug Fair is open every day, all day long. There are sniffing booths and sticky stuff to roll in, then shake off before you hit the couch. In Doggie Heaven all the scraps are catered and no bipeds are allowed out, unless accompanied by a pet. Every vertical you meet has pockets full of treats and you’ve got a standing reservation, every evening, at the Cafe Chez Bone; a place pack-famous for it’s Mudwater Bar. All dogs go to Heaven and those who never had a humid of their own, have lots there to adopt; special souls, who though they never had a dog, have the heart of one. Uprights of courage, love and loyalty, who don’t need a canine okay to pass through the cloadscaped kennel gates. It’s a place of loafs and dishes and squirrels everywhere you look.“
DARK NAVIGATED MORNING
An open bag of poultry graze, what’s the story with that? Not The Secret Sharer, I’m sure, nor The Old Man And The Sea. According to my dark navigated morning, it’s more likely The Lottery. With a plug eye weeping into my beard and a gait that swings from lack of sleep, I am watching this dog walk from sludge-coated spectacles. I’m at nixes and heavens as to whether my cup of poison is half empty or half full. “Fowl bag seen by foul bird”, says I, in my best pirate to our see-dog Sprocket. It’s our usual round of golf course trail when we come upon the inebriated sack paled up against the Weed-Pickers-Needed-Monday-Morning sign. Who leaves such an orphaned child without a note? Is it a satirical statement, to wit: “Employees here work for chicken feed”? Is it gifted by some backyard hobbyist who has turned to stamps? Did their charges end up as dinner for racoons or the Sunday pot? Is the bag open as a lure for rats? Has it been Borgia up, not realizing dead rodents equal dead owls and pussycats? The kind of efficient folks who lethal their lawns to execute the pesky weed but end up writing fini to the birds and bees? If I can unsuck my mental boots from the swamp, I might realize not everyone poisons hotdogs to feed their neighbour’s pets. This could be a simple offering to duck fanciers to dissuade them from clogging the salty quakers with lumps of wonder bread. (Then why not put it by the bench beside the pond?) Oh I know there aren’t as many people rusting in the rain as the news would paint. (Nice guys don’t make headlines.) I’ve just been away from the fold far too long. I’ve gone from antisocial to Uncle Unwelcome Matt.
My name is Michael Lewis. I am a retiree and live in Victoria British Columbia, Canada. Since the advent of the pandemic my wife and I have isolated ourselves with our dog Sprocket. I take sprocket out for his walk 4:30 in The A.M. to avoid running into other folk.
It simply started as a rant because our local golf course was shut down due to the pandemic and though the trail that surrounded the course was still open and people were encouraged to use it, the golf course itself was off limits. This seemed to me counterproductive, as the trail itself was narrow with little opportunities to social distance if you encounter anyone else. I put my rant on facebook and got a good response. I started taking my dog Sprocket earlier and earlier in the morning, trying to avoid other walkers. This gave me lots of time to meditate and I began to notice the rhythm of my walking was giving a natural rhythm to my thoughts. When I returned home I would write down as quickly as possible what I had started to repeat and repeat in my head. I began to do some rewriting and some editing before I posted what started to grow into these prose poems. At first they came quickly and often but of late things have started to slow down. My partner and I have been fortunate enough to isolate relatively easily, we order in groceries and our necessities but it now being a year plus two months, I’ve begun to struggle to find something new and thought provoking in our daily routine. As it is, I’ve some hundred, seventy pieces and am quite pleased by what has resulted.