there but for

A broken ear, matted greying fur, a scrapper of a dog flinches
a crouching jump — startling to look at me. Almost growling,
a tentative curl to his upper lip, his jaw tosses and chomps
on a morsel of detritus from beside the dumpster
in the Motel 6 parking lot. With starving purpose, he sniffs
and claws to hold and lick the inside surface of a grease-soaked
paper bag. I notice the panting breath of his ribcage,
gaunt and skeletal, beneath his thinning coat. The elegant tendons
of his back legs are poised, trembling, as he finishes, licks his chops,
and scrutinizes me again.

How long has it been? Will someone pick him up — or off?
From wild eyes, he concludes his last, long look at me, and turns
to lope away with a crooked, limping gait.
And in some distant recess of my inner ear I hear a whisper,
keep going, keep moving, don’t stop.

  1. there but for hear paula read: there but for 1:20


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