/ /

For David Yezzi

Twice a day I walk with the dog,
this mutt with shepherd ears,
past the drain at the bottom of Ratcliff.
I’ve even looked it up, the type of drain
it is—an inlet drain, below an iron lintel.

Morning and evening … Still,
the odor takes me aback. A voice
you’ve turned a deaf ear to whose breath
assails … I halt, then tug the dog
across the street. But go in my mind with the flow
to the bayou. There I’d jog with the dog,

not this one—she’s a sweetheart—no,
the yellow Lab that moved with us,
and there’s the restaurant that was
the filling station where I bought
new tires. Dry rot. En route, I’d had two flats.

I dot that restaurant’s red beans and rice
with hot sauce; still, the smell of rubber bites
through the renovation. The dog
who relentlessly barked while that poor kid
plugged the puncture in Jackson,
toenails piercing the vinyl—whom we got

because we hadn’t a child. Whose father barked
on the porch, the mother pacing, chained
amid a muddy litter, one of which
fell asleep on my shoes—ferociously barked,
the screen door bulging. Rode she did

with me, our high-strung puppy of two,
while she whom luck had made
rode with her mother: a child beginning to walk—
butt up, knees locked, palms flat on the floor—
who walked upright for real in that motel
where we awaited the movers … and soon enough,

in our back yard, was running, racing friends,
and streaking after them that yellow dog
as tall as them, who barked
in their faces. Whom I jogged with—no,
who tugged me into a run

along the sidewalk that compassed the bayou
from this to that far bridge, where streets diverge
and shallow back yards crowd and feed it lawn,
and where it winds—consult the birds …
until you happen to be
wherever south you are and there it shows:

“Why, that’s the bayou that runs
through our old neighborhood.” (Our “starter home”
was one block west of the bayou.) We turn,
this mutt and I, to square our circuit home
to the red-brick Georgian

where she, that child of luck,
grew up so quick she might as well have run
away … who’s moved back in. This time of year
a cloudburst shouldn’t catch us unawares.
It does—a streak of lightning that barks in our faces—
and we walk fast; our footsteps beat us home.