Body of My Boy

Theo lies on stainless steel.

Golden.  Small.

Dropper bottles everywhere.

Homeopathic remedies.  Ancient herbs.

Distilled.  Mashed.  Lost on Theo.

I sit behind him.

He lifts his tail.  Lets it drop.

The edge of the examination table is cold

against my breasts.  I pull him to me, his spine

against my sternum.  I slip my hand

inside his legs.  Rest it on his heart.

The nurse is a big woman.

She exudes compassion.

I wish she would go away.

Take the blue walls with her.

The nurse holds Theo’s hind leg

in her stubby fingers.

The needle is small.

She searches for a vein.

“You go, Sweetie Boy,” I say, “You go.”

Sunlight hits the lip of a wooden shutter

then disappears behind the Chinese laundry

in the alley.  The nurse presses

on the needle.  Theo moans.

“No,” I say, “You go.  It’s okay.  You go.”

Theo cries out, twists and snaps his teeth.

The nurse removes the needle.

“I’m sorry,” she says, “I thought

I had a vein but I was in muscle.”

Steam escapes from the Chinese laundry.

Shirts are pressed and creased and tied quickly

with just the right amount of string.

The nurse finds a vein in Theo’s front leg

and glides the needle in.

I want to feel what happens next

but I am on the ceiling with my father

twisting the wire stem of the plastic flower

I made at camp around the valves

on the oxygen tank beside his bed.

I can’t imagine life without him.

I am ten so I have hope.

Theo’s heart begins to rumble.

Then is still.  The nurse retracts

the empty needle.  Turns out the light.

I am alone with the body of my dog.

I pull him near me. His legs slide and slip

in no particular order.  His head twists

like a slinky on circular stairs.

I quickly push him back.

Arrange him as he’d arrange himself

on my side of the bed.

The nurse re-enters.  She carries

three nasturtiums, their stems wrapped

in a wet piece of paper towel.

She puts them on the corner

of the stainless steel table

nearest the door and tells me to

take my time.

I look in Theo’s eyes.

He is as gone as if he never came.

I pick up my purse.  Open the door.

Step into the fluorescent hallway.

Someone laughs at the front desk.

I want to see Theo one more time.

I turn my head toward the dark and as I do

a beam of sunlight defies

the wooden shutters and falls

across my dog.  The nasturtiums.

His magnificent paws.

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