South Fork Poetry: ‘How sweet the time’

By Kathy Engel

Lola the aging Chesapeake 
retriever turns to a pup again 
jumping in circles when I say 
beach so I often spell it if not 
intending to actually go there 
(with her). Now at 6 a.m. we 
are going and she knows it! 
I spread the synthetic red 
blanket over my car’s back 
seat tucking in the edges 
even though sand will still spill 
out when I shake it later and 
that’s okay. I prepare the bag 
of organic dog treats, remove 
her collar. She moan/grunts, hind 
legs dangling behind the rest 
of her bear-like middle as she 
heaves herself onto the seat 
of my banged up bumper-stickered 
green machine. I offer a gentle 
nudge with my knees for the last 
lift, unlike the rushed pushes 
of the past, try a downward 
(dog) hoping the ache in my 
calves will let go, then grab 
the tennis ball but she’s not 
enticed, only seems to want 
my company and to be exactly 
where we’ve arrived even as she 
lumbers, right hind buckling, 
even as she looks to one side 
then the other as if lost now and 
then, the brown jagged planet 
growing on the side of her eye 
dragging her lid like an emblem — 
the hideous in each of us that we 
want to cut off. She follows her 
nose and the salt air, half blind 
I’m sure, as if something farther 
away, beyond the paws, barks, 
and impediments in her life or 
mine, is calling. I don’t know if 
that’s true. No longer will she join 
me in the waves, scratching my skin 
exuberantly, long nails dialing 
the water. She wades in hip deep, 
waits for me as I dive, float and 
exclaim the glory of our circumstance. 
In the rolling quiet between blue, 
green and the finest ground stone 
caressing the bottoms of our different 
feet, I ask if this early morning 
intimacy in our ripening melts 
away the damage of past neglect. 
No one else is around. It’s just 
us, a woman and dog shaking 
off time and water. 

Kathy Engel has poems forthcoming in Women’s Voices for Change, Poet Lore, and “Ghost Fishing,” an anthology. She lives in Sagaponack.