“Walking the Dog” by W. Roger Carlisle

I am sitting with my dog on a faux antique bench
at the mall. Walking has been my salvation,
medication, and saving grace
for the last 12 years since I retired.
Movement is life.

Over the last 12 years most of the stores
have closed; the families and children
have been replaced by older retirees walking their dogs.
The dogs and people have gotten smaller. I should be taking
a new drug for depression.

No forethought of pity, blame or guilt,
my dog’s otherness centers my life; she is my walking mirror.
She sees my mind, my heart, my blindness
as I stumble through the endless stories I tell myself.

Here’s the thing, these dogs evolved from wolves but have more feeling
than humans. It’s no longer the hunt or protection that connects us.
I have evolved into a potty-trained parent
gathering up poop in my plastic doggy bag, clinging
to the only one protecting me from loneliness, before
returning home to my empty apartment.

Anyway, my dog seems to discover the world through her nose.
Does she miss smelling the pine trees, the flowers,
the honeysuckle, the grasses and freshness in the wind?
She seems excited despite the absence of squirrels, rabbits,
and chipmunks to chase. Does she miss running free without a leash?

I shiver slightly looking up; at the steel
and glass atrium; all is quiet except for
the occasional echo of a barking dog.
The hardness and the brightness of the glass give
far-reaching views of parking lots, apartments and suburbia.

It is all a reminder of the fear and pain
of not being young; that youth can never come again,
it is for undiminished others somewhere else.

Protect me God, from the pretense that I am searching for.
My dog knows how to be a dog, but
I am lost by choice and all the evidence suggests
I am wallowing in it.

W Roger Carlisle is a 74-year-old, semi-retired physician. He currently volunteers and works in a free medical clinic for patients living in poverty. He grew up in Oklahoma and was a history major in college. He has been writing poetry for 10 years. He is currently on a journey of returning home to better understand himself through poetry. He hopes he is becoming more humble in the process.

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