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The Choice to Love: A Poem

Dedicated to Annette Hertzler

The Choice to Love

A poem by Jeanne Grunert

Moments, drop by drop

Slip through time

Nothing brings her back

Pinpricks of pain

The sight of her bed, of bowl, of leash

The silky feel of fur

Remembering

Stroking her head and praying her into heaven

As she exhaled her last in the vet’s office

Cancer on her heart, in her spleen

No longer able to eat, or drink

Existing just for me

I let her go

The braided rug where she watched me weep for her

Knowing she was to die in an hour

Knowing she could not live

My heart, cracked in two

Half into the grave with her

A dog I did not want, did not like at first

Too clingy, too needy, too everything

She became mine because she needed me

And I learned I needed her

Oh, what a hard lesson it was

Then, she was gone

Just when I knew I loved her truly and forever.

The house, too silent, too clean

My days, too quiet, too sedentary

I relished the quiet

I grieved the quiet

Then the realization

Of missing the knowing eyes

The dawn walks, the dusk rambles

The adventures on four footed trails

Winding through mountains, meadows

Yes, we can get a new dog

A puppy who will be raised alongside cats.

Warm and soft

A promised, cherished gift

I could not enjoy

I could not relax

Something kept me from being present

I looked at him and wished for her.

“Why won’t you grow up?”

Why can’t you be her?

Never resting, never quiet

My heart aching for the past

So full of past it could not embrace the present

Anxiety stealing every moment

Lending harshness to an unfolding relationship

The puppy, quietly questing,

Wondering why

Nightmares of her gone

Going

Here and then gone

Never seeing her again

Losing her, over and over

The puppy, questioning

Why won’t you love me?

Am I a bad dog?

Then, a gift

An autumn day

A river and friends and dogs

Tumbling in the water

A quiet moment

A confidence

“What are you afraid of?”

“Are you afraid he’ll die?”

Denial

Then

Yes

I am afraid.

Afraid of opening my heart again

Sealed In the tomb

Against loss

It can be cracked in two again

By the ultimate cleaver, death

Which comes for us all

And will come for this puppy

And for me

And for you

But I chose love

I choose love

I choose now

I choose hope

I choose happiness

I choose friendship

I choose love

I look at the sleeping puppy by my feet

He feels the difference

He chooses to be with me today

And I

With him

The old is gone; she is passed away

She cannot be replaced.

New relationships forged

On autumn days, in riverbeds

In meadows and streams

And time spent together

A choice to love.

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