Earlier from the second-story deck
I caught a glimpse of the gate
slamming shut as Ella chased
someone out of the yard.
Her wild barking was
what had summoned me.
The thunk of something landing
solidly on the wooden deck below
brought me down the stairs
to find a package for my wife,
too big to fit through the mail slot.
The gate latch was still vibrating
at a high B or C.
I found a ladybug
bleached bone-white and fragile under the glass,
like a tiny skull.
With eyespots faded almost to nothing,
blinded by the sun,
it was as if the creature had only slowly,
let go of the urge to outwit its predators.
Let me tell you a story.
This morning I was out walking the dog,
who, honestly, can be a grouchy pain in the ass.
But today she was pretty good. It was clear and cold, being October,
and we had waited more than five minutes
to cross a busy street. Ella was alert for squirrels,
trotting with her head up like a tiny horse,
when half a block ahead we saw a woman walking a shepherd mix
of some kind. It was small for a shepherd, brown with
a little bit of red to it.
Ella sat down on her haunches, as she sometimes does,
and wouldn't budge. It's her way of telling the
other dog that they're equals, and she's not afraid.
I made her keep walking, though, but I kept her
on the side of me away from the other dog,
just to be on the safe side. Because you never know.
As we passed the woman, her dog lunged in front of me,
growling. Ella lunged back. She's a soft-coated wheaten terrier
and doesn't look like she could be that tough, but they
were both about the same size and it was an even match.
In the confusion of bodies and leashes and guttural snarls,
I could see the other dog's teeth, points of gleaming bone,
trying to find their way home in my dog's
throat. I hauled Ella into the air by her leash and
swung her clear of the scrap. She wears a body harness and not
just a collar for exactly this reason.
The woman, sounding shaken, could not have apologized more.
Her dog never acts like that. I was shaken too. She
thanked me for being so cool, but it's like I told her:
"Sometimes things like this just happen."
There's no reason for it.
It's much the same way that I don't like you.
Between me, safe in my seat on this bus,
And the decadent majesty of the salmon-red cliffs of eastern Utah,
A ghost landscape stands sentinel,
As if etched into the glass by a cadre of capering goblins.
The residue of a hasty window washing
Loops and whorls of dirt left untouched, uncleansed,
Unrepentent, at the bottom of the glass on each fluid upstroke
It sparkles, gritty and salt-sharp in the oblique sunlight,
Like a series of pearly solar flares,
Or a graph of the desert's pulsebeat,
Or spectral negatives of a washed-out sandstone arch,
Photographed in stages over eons of time
Snapshots from a child-god's flip-book
Frothing, leaping, peaking, then falling back into the ground
Like fountains of earth,
A time-lapse planetary signature
That will melt and return to dust
With the next unlikely rain.
Originally published in Sunstone, February 1994