Father and Dog

two children and a wife in a foreign land
You step onto cold, polished terazzo
Who do you come home to?
8 o’clock specials and pre-prepared food
your own mind and the drink

the little black and brown one crept out, head bent low, tail waving in belaboured greeting
Blackie came to be.

A returned wife, one grown child,
and a kid scared of her new surroundings
you knew I needed something to tie me to this earth

the little brown and black one trotted in, head held high, thrilled by tinsel and bells
Duke came to be

15 years.
The elder ran away, a new white one in the interim,
shadows in comparison to Duke.
Loving with us, raving mad with neighbours
playful, frustrated by ammi’s tight squeezes
scared maniacally at the vet
forever asleep at the foot of your bed.

Thathi, I’ve seen you cry a hundred times
Sharp glistening in your eyes betrays how close the tears are
but you’ve never recovered from the loss of Duke
I exploded, ammi healed, aiya mourned
you stayed empty

And as you look on this new one, named in his memory,
you can’t help but compare every detail
a father unable to relinquish the memory of his dying child
you say, ‘he looked like this when he was young.
she’s looking around at everyone, just like he did.’
She the shadow of him in every aspect.

I hope she will treat your heart right, thathi.
That she won’t fill the space Duke left but
love you in her own little way
and win you over. Guard you
protect you from yourself
and hug you when I can’t.

In a legacy of man and dog, I hope this one circles and settles in that space left in your heart.


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