On an afternoon walk, a cold wind went through me like a shot (whiskey, brandy, something dark) and he came to me, my grandfather. Winter like a dog at my fingertips—my first dog, Cochise, gorgeous, gentle, fur like snowfields. After Cochise died, my grandfather sat me down on the porch and said, “Everybody lives, and everybody dies. It’s called the circle of life.” And it made so much sense at eleven, when we were talking about the dog. Me doing as I do under stress: tearing at nailbeds, at the chipped red paint of the stiff porch steps. There was something about the way he said it. Not a tear. His voice certain, rehearsed, a hymn— a song preparing me for something greater. I like to remember him like this— cigarette-stuffed breast-pocket, dark blonde ponytail— before the dying really started. He came home from the hospital, smoked a joint, and we kept death away for three weeks. We did as the nurses did: we bathed, fed, and clothed the body of a man eclipsed by addiction, by grief, the man who thought he was a coyote and howled at the moon. Were they listening? These days it’s hard not to be sad. January sets slowly over my lover’s fencepost, and I wonder where I’m going, what will become of me. When it seems I can’t go on, when I’ve done everything wrong, I see him, his face burning amber from the other side of the yard and I tell him, I don’t want to die.
Christian Paulisich is an undergraduate poet at Johns Hopkins University. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland, but is originally from the Bay Area, California. His poems have appeared in As It Ought to Be, Orchards Poetry Journal, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Neologism Poetry Journal and others.
Philip Kobylarz is an itinerant teacher of the language arts and writer of fiction, poetry, book reviews, and essays.