Three Poems by Taylor Mali

From the Hands of the One Who Loves You Best

For Jeanann Verlee

This is a story about the dogs in my family,
but not about how we named them after local bodies of water
or even about how when I was 20 I finally realized
that only WASPs did that, that the rest of the world
named their dogs whatever they wanted.

This is a story about the dogs in my family,
but not about how we cut a pound of cheddar cheese
into little cubes whenever we took Hudson to the vet,
or, as he came to think, The Place Where I Get Cheese!
Oh, the things you will let a lab coat do
so long as you get cheddar cheese fed to you
from the hands of the one who loves you best.

Neither is this the story about how my father dug graves
for all our dogs at the family farm months before any of them died
just to insure they could be buried in the frozen ground
if they died in the middle winter; how we joked that they wondered
what the hole was for. I feel like someone just walked on my grave.
Like it might even have been me.

We actually buried Winchester on the morning of my sister’s wedding:
Dearly beloved, what a beautiful sight.
Wedding to the left. Doggie funeral to the right.
But this isn’t a story about that.

This is a story about dogs and chocolate, which they love,
though it can kill them. Who doesn’t crave the taste of their poison?
How, when the time came to put them down, we gathered
and shared with each dog chocolate like a rich dark sacrament.
Even then we joked that each dog knew exactly what the sweetness meant.
Not the chocolate! Come on! I’m only 105!

Jeanann, this is chocolate for Callisto.
Break the bar like bread, and let her eat
from the hands of she who loves her best.
Make of your broken heart a dog:
bounding, joyful, warm,
chasing rabbits in a field.


Benediction for the Morning

She clasps her hands together when she sleeps
to cast a spell against the dark night air
or as a way to bless the secret dreams she keeps,
for what is dreaming but a kind of prayer?



The Naked Gardener

You’re tired. But there is breakfast to make,
emails to answer, and poems to write.
You have to submit your manuscript, which means
making sure the page numbers are right.

Then you work out, and stretch, and cool down,
and head for the sauna when you get the chance:
Strip naked, carry the hamper to the laundry,
but then remember you have to water the plants.

So nude, you gather your watering can,
and visit each fern and the bonsai tree,
decide a succulent cannot be saved:
And this is how you appear to me.

Naked as Eve in the garden, flushed,
sweaty hair, a beautiful mess,
a half-dead struggling plant in your hands
your only natural dress.

You ask me to throw out the plant,
say please, and give me a kiss.
But the truth is I would do anything you want
if you asked me naked, like this.

You twirl to continue your rounds
and leave me, a & lucky man
wishing for once I were a thirsty fern
being blessed by your watering can.

I watch you walk away, transfixed.
I am lovestuck and smiling wide
until I notice the next plants needing water
are the ones on the deck . . . outside.

But off you go to tend to your beauties
watering them one by one.
Radiant woman now only clad
in the glorious rays of the sun.

I have always considered it fortunate
that we live on a hill in the middle of the woods,
’cause if the mailman were to come right now
he’d die from one glimpse of your goods.

O Naked Gardener, carry on
there is no one but me who can see.
And I hope one day you feel as beautiful
as you look every day to me.

More poetry at Used Furniture.

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