Wednesday, May 24, 2017

In the Food Lion Parking Lot

Your dog is smiling at me! Look,
she’s giving me the biggest grin.
Is it okay if I pet her? Hey, you’ve
got another one back there, too –
aren’t they just the sweetest
things. Oh, I don’t care about
that – yes, you’ve got ice cream
on your chin, baby – the vet,
huh? She likes that, right behind
the ears, don’t she. And you,
mister, you’re just a love pig.
Oh, I miss my dog! I had the gentlest
pit bull. Sam. He was just
the color of sand. We lived
on the beach then, a dear
little place in Florida. I think
I loved that dog more than
I loved my boyfriend. Ex-
boyfriend. One time I found
that dog curled up, sleeping
with my son on the floor …
my son was all cuddled up
with Sam, had his arm
wrapped around that dog.
Oh I miss my dog! One day
he just disappeared. Pretty
sure my boyfriend sold him;
he was jealous. Men. Pit bulls
are usually good dogs, you know;
it’s people who’re bad. People
just ruin ‘em. I have PTSD,
so I could get a companion dog,
if I wanted one. But I live over
in the Vista Apartments, rules
say small dogs only. I like big dogs,
don’t you, like these cutie pies?
And sometimes my pain is so bad,
I couldn’t take a dog outside
when it needed to go, so … I don’t
have a license anymore, I can’t even
get over to the shelter and help out
with baths and walking like I used to.
My friend picks me up and we go do
our shopping together, like today.
Well, thanks for letting me love
on your dogs. You’re blessed
to have ‘em. Look at that smile!

I’ve seen this woman so many times
before, in so many small towns,
wearing so many skin colors;
some with nicotine-stained teeth,
some with full sets of white dentures,
some, like today, with just a few stragglers
left behind, unsteady survivors of a terrible disaster.
I’ve seen these women in grocery store aprons,
in sweats, scrubs, old t-shirts and flannel jackets,
jeans and hoodies. They’re working two
or three jobs, or struggling to get by
on disability. They’re walking home
from the Dollar Store, arms heavy
with yellow plastic bags full of cans
and day-old bread. Their mouths set
in straight lines, heads down, hair streaked
with silver, or dry from a lifetime
of home-perms; hands scarred, rough,
calloused, mapped like back roads
most folks never see. And their eyes? Oh,
their eyes. Squinting, side-eye,
blank, always looking somewhere
else. Blue, brown, green, hazel,
black, doesn’t matter: an animal looking
for shelter. Eyes that only ignite
like jewels, open wide with pleasure,
when they see dogs smiling at them
across a parking lot in late spring,
or early fall, or in the heat of July.
I think it’s that – unlike boyfriends
or sons who grow up or bosses who yell
or DSHS case managers or any number
of life’s unfathomable bullies – dogs,
dogs offer love for love’s sake,
accept touch for the sake of touch;
dogs have never hurt them.

           - Deborah A. Miranda

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