Two Dogs in My Life, But No More
Walking the sidewalk,
This young man,
His puppy under leash,
To assess his next move;
A carriage with a three-year-old boy
Was being pushed by his mother,
From the opposite direction;
Likewise, she stopped to consider
Whether to go forward
Or go backward to avoid an encounter.
On seeing the boy, however,
The little critter showed no hesitancy
It quickly jumped into the boy’s lap.
The boy, as happy as a lark,
In trying to contain the boisterous pup--
He grabbed it by the neck.
The puppy brought its snout
Up to the boy’s face;
Its tongue hanging out,
In one swoop,
The puppy pulled it across the boy’s mouth.
One hand pushing the critter aside,
He swiped his other hand across his mouth
And noisily spat out over the puppy’s back.
The man pulled the leash and dragged his puppy away.
The boy turned his head--
Tears appearing in his eyes:
“Come back,” he shouted,
“Come back; come back,”
He pleaded in vain:
“Please, come back!”
The directions having been established,
There was no way to change either one.
My early childhood was fraught
With frequent illness to my stomach,
With episodes of extreme pain
To the point of passing out,
But never fatally, for--
At eighty one,
I continue to be alive,
Thanks to my mother,
Against poor health
Or sheltering me
From artillery barrages overhead
Or from bombs exploding from the air
Or from being run-over by tanks and trucks—
Most of the times, I am sure,
She did it alone.
She saved my life--
From Zio Raffaele… my uncle, Ralph.
“What do you want, my son?”
She asked me after one coma.
“I want a puppy.”
“A puppy!” she exclaimed gently.
“What color and size?”
Before I knew it,
I slipped into another coma,
Never having thought
About the meaning of life or death,
Or even knowing
How full my life was by just living it.
There was the puppy,
On my bed,
Just as I had envisioned it!
And just as it was miraculous,
I re-gained both health and energy.
With my un-named puppy by my side--
That week was a period
I shall never forget.
I also remember that, suddenly,
My puppy was nowhere in sight.
“Mamma… Mom, where’s my puppy?”
“I don’t know; let me look.”
After a few minutes,
She returned to tell me
The puppy had disappeared.
Having gotten back on my feet soon thereafter,
I never asked my mother
How and why
That beautiful puppy
Had appeared and disappeared?
Although I got well on my own
I always knew
That somehow or other
The hand of my uncle Ralph was there.
The Big War practically over,
Military traffic to and from Naples kept on moving.
Our survival no longer a priority,
I asked my mother if I could get another puppy.
She quickly agreed.
Before I knew it,
She presented me a new puppy.
And it had short gray homely hair.
For some reason, though, we became friends;
In no time,
We became the envy of strangers and neighbors alike.
“Vai Avanti… Go ahead!” I would order.
And straight forward it would go.
“Vieni qua… Come here!” I would order,
And it quickly obeyed without the flinch of an eye.
After running a short distance,
It would stop,
Turn its head,
And look at me, wild eyed--
Its front legs bent to the ground,
Its hind paws fully upward at an angle,
And off it'd run.
I don’t know where its energy came from!
From that point on,
I replaced the pronoun It with He—
Not that it made a difference, except for me.
Realizing I had not given him a name
I opted against doing just that.
Asked by people for my dog’s name,
“Come il tuo… Like yours!”
I would answer with a smile.
Throughout the time we spent together,
He never once licked my face.
There was no humor, however,
In the frantic voice of my neighbor
Telling me that
An Army truck had just killed him.
Leaving my mother behind,
I rushed to the lifeless body on the side of the road.
Seeing me with eyes full of tears,
My mother pulled me up.
Holding my face tightly in her arms, she consoled me:
“Figlio mio... My son, destiny is cruel;
And life no less so;
Go, bury your friend,”
She said, releasing me from her grip.
There she was, my mother,
A wife with a husband and three children in America
While raising two more children
In a war-torn village
She also cared for my bed-ridden grandfather.
With tears streaming down my face,
One hand latched on his hind leg,
I stoically dragged the body to the garden.
There, shovel in hand,
I dug a wide and deep hole.
After gently pushing him down to the bottom,
I covered him until the soil was even with the ground.
At this saddest moment in my life,
I neither placed a cross on the grave
Nor asked him to come back,
Nor pleaded to, “Please, come back!”
I knew too well the meaning
Behind the words of my mother,
Who, with a face sadder than mine,
Kept on pressing my moist face
Into her open arms.
Today, at my age,
It becomes ever so hard,