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I walk, for a fee, a large-ish dog,
a rescued stray, chow chow/shepherd with
black tongue and nuts,
in a distant, historical suburb
of Los Angeles, California. Once a land of
vineyards and citrus groves, its slippage from
paradise is integral to its
charm. Sky-piercing Victorians, palatial Craftsmen,
gingerbread, fieldstone, stucco,
Spanish style bungalows with Dr. Seuss windows
vie for the sunlight with
This dog, more than any
mayor or mogul, owns these streets,
and I am only a witness, a
minister without portfolio, to
their accidental beauty.
Real carillons call the hours, sated tabbies stare
from sanctuary porches,
as Red updates his status on
light poles and trash cans, the fire hydrant too
tired a trope.
His is an olfactory odyssey, while I
am too easily amused by architecture,
He and I have weathered monsoon swelter,
outrun loose dogs, police pursuits, and lightning.
We have watched, together, the sun
slide southernly, slatternly bandaged
in bruised clouds. We’ve crossed floods, danced to the wind
clattering away in pokeyball trees.
We meet, almost daily, strangers with stories
of backdoor benevolences, the outwitting
of cops and animal control officers, years of distrust
and Russian roulette
with the trucks on Euclid Avenue.
I will take, before he breaks my heart,
the minor miracles: the rococo clamshell
hovering over a window, the raucous flocks of parrots,
the aria, in a rich and professional tenor, issuing
from the back room of a pink bungalow.
Red is more appreciative, on the front lawn,
of the chicken bones
in their styrofoam chalice, rancid but tasty,
a street dog’s Holy Grail.