stains on the pavement

he ran hard on
short legs
following his bigger
street-wise companion
into the road and
predictable wheels
ground him beneath
their path
just in front of me
those wheels sped
on but i did not
where i was
in the middle of the
road i ran to him
and shaking, gathered
gently his convulsive
small frame into
my arms unaware
of the blood trickling from
his fur
staining my skin and
clothes
aware only of him and the tears
staining my face and
i breathed in
his unwashed
fur smell and sobbed out
it’s okay you’ll be
okay i’ve got
you hold on
but it didn’t matter because
quickly and with no
spoken rights he
died in my arms
i didn’t even know
his name and
his bigger companion
watching, hopeful in the
grass across the road
couldn’t tell me though
i’m sure he knew
because
the moment his
smaller friend left
his life on the
pavement he knew
and left me to tend
to him alone
whyohwhyohwhy
are we who speak
unable
unwilling to warn
those who
do not to stay out
of our hurried
get-out-of-my-way
frenetic pace?

a crowd not able to
get around my car or me or
what had happened
spoke quietly
felt badly
helpless to make any
thing different for
me or the dog i
held defiantly onto –
a kid on a bike
circled did you
hit that dog, lady?
no, dammit, do you know
who he belongs to?
i never seen him
before lady read that tag
on his collar
it’s just a rabies tag
no name
no name
what was your name
who loved you and knew
your name

a man took his
crippled form from
my arms and
laid him quickly
on the sidewalk
and dutifully
i went to the house he
had run from behind
and i could hear
jane fonda’s tape
on the t.v. and
a greyish, sweating, house-coated
lady swung open
the door
i’m so sorry i said
to be the one to
bring you this news
do you have a small
white dog?
yes why yes oh no
yes, i do
and leaning heavy
she walked with
me to the curb
and peeking from behind
puffy hands said
he’s not mine
that’s not my dog
oh thank god he
isn’t my dog
but
i said
he is somebody’s dog
mine and yours
too he belongs
to all of us now and
yet
to none of us
she took the number off
his collar and
i suppose she returned
to jane fonda on the t.v. and
the other people went
back to their cars
and their plans
forgetting the stains
his small body left
on the road because
nobody traced a
chalk line
around it but i
could not leave my brain
was now
stained
with indelible pictures
of his neck
broken his eyes
staring his legs
stiffening the
pick-up hitting and
leaving
i pressed shut
his eyelids and
once more held his
lifeless, broken
body
alone
and i cried for
him and i cried for
me and i cried for
us all
on the pavement

Judith Ann Hillard
16 February 1990