Dog in the Rain

I’m thinking about time, the slow
avalanche of insistence. The man
singing in the rain below my balcony
and the father you lost four months ago.

I’m thinking about the shape of your
heart, the wound he left, gouged bloody.
I’ve pushed against the edges, trying
to skirt the bruise but stay inside. I must

be quiet long enough for you to think,
to make space for yourself amidst your grief.
The man in the rain drags his dog from corpse
to corpse, birds, trash; cutting a curious shape

into the night. He seems happy, the way strangers
always seem happier for no reason other than
lack of familiarity. I close my eyes to see
your face, the sun you’ve burned through

my darkness. I’ve been given so much.
The man disappears into his apartment,
and I’m alone in the night air. A drink
on one side, empty chair beside me, waiting.

The Work of Dying

My sister says come now. I can’t
afford it, but I do. Sleep on her
couch with her massive puppy whose love
is like a cyclone overwhelming a picnic.

My brother twitches in a hospital bed, unable
to turn himself without a nurse. It’s excruciating,
the constant motion, his nerves dying cell
by cell. He is trying to climb a hill with no top.

His stomach aches all the time. The nurses
want him to eat on his own as long
as he’s able. Autonomy is important for mood.
We bring sugary snacks, all of his favorites.

I go for extra ice, stand over him, bone thin,
and feed him snack cakes and water. He gums
them slowly, struggling to control his jaws.
I wait with the next bite. I can’t speak.

We decorate his room, hang tinsel, a little
tree, photos where he can see them.
I’m here for two days. We stop by mom’s
grave and polish the stone. On the way back

to my sister’s house, I tell her I blame
myself for not being here. She can’t stop crying.
It’s like I’ve fallen over the railing, sleep-
walking, but I can’t hit bottom.

Raised on a rice and catfish farm in eastern Arkansas, CL Bledsoe is the author of more than thirty books, including the poetry collections Riceland, The Bottle Episode, and his newest, Driving Around, Looking in Other People’s Windows, as well as his latest novels Goodbye, Mr. Lonely and The Saviors. Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.