Because a puppy is now! while the news
is grief for yesterday and fear
for tomorrow, we drive to the animal shelter
the Sunday after the towers collapse.
The shelter is packed with children
eager to make a dog way its tail
or be licked by a cat's sandpaper tongue.
Parents who had said no or when you're older
are eager to give their kids something
to watch besides the rising toll.
I'd heard the news in the car as I drove home
from my second radiation treatment
and it seemed unreal at first, unreal
as the news in August when a smiley-face
computer voice announced, "You've got cancer!"
– unreal until the surgeon cut
the nodule from my breast and I could feel
the tender reality. It's small, he said,
a pea or a pearl, or a nuclear reactor I thought
and where else are they lurking, these ticking bombs?
September explosions and the thousands dead
make the threat inside my body seem smaller,
so we stop in front of a sleepy chocolate pointer
with white patches on her face and chest
and the tip of her tail. Careful for the stitches
in her belly, we place her on the table where she
shakes off sleep and invites us to fall in love.
Before we walk out with her in my arms, a sign
warns, "Are you ready for a fifteen-year commitment?"
and I say sure, I'll take it – give me fifteen years.
from Make Your Way Across This Bridge: New & Selected
reprinted in This Is Why You Flew Ten Thousand Miles
(Whittier Publications, Inc., 2006)