Joel Moskowitz   


Putting Our Dog to Sleep

What can I say I loved about having our dog put to sleep?
Well, it was so easy to lift her into the car––
like packing a beach chair for a ride to Lake Boone––
then, meeting Janet so we could share this business,
killing our dog, you could say. 

Our dog had been standing for days
and seemed unable to lie down for pain;
and, I loved that though I feared she'd bite me,
I pushed her to the floor,
one of the softest uses of force
I can remember.

I loved the warmth at the animal hospital,
the examination room made homey for us
with dim lighting, a blanket spread over the linoleum.
We lowered ourselves, to be left alone
as long, the nurse said, as we needed.

Then we were two golden haystacks
slumping in that room, coming undone
and keeping ourselves from coming undone...
over our dog, our Shepherd-Collie.

I loved her alertness when knuckles rapped softly,
loved her tail swinging when the door opened.
It was time, one of the doctors entering,
the syringe in a box,
the room, paneled in pine.

We have different memories of what happened next.
Janet remembers our good dog raising her paw a little
toward the needle as if knowing
this was the last best help we could give her;

while I remember only the calm, 
our dog with her head on my lap,
almost everything else hazy like a dream
but the hush, wall-to-wall,
which might as well have been shed
over the whole town, the parks and trails
where she had loved to run.



Batting Practice in California with My Father

You pitched a heater.
I swung hard,

The ball shot through the crown
of a Eucalyptus
and kept going

in the direction of the sea. You cheered.
Sunset colors, pink and green
streaked the sky. Severed

leaves, a few like confetti
dropped. In a real game,
it would have been a home run.

You chased over the long grass meadow and beyond,
your frame getting smaller
and smaller

and smaller. Still running,
you disappeared
behind a distant copse

as even now I look for you
in every outfield
rinsed by light,

and there's nothing more for me 
to do but to kneel in the grass
among the tapered
fragrant leaves.



Grandpa Jack

Dancing was fresh air to Grandpa Jack,
but Grandma Rose deemed it a waste of time;
so he made a hobby out of listening,
capturing the Big Bands on reel to reel,

his foot tapping
to the swinging beat in his den,
but with such outdated equipment
that when Mom transferred his music
to a cassette, it was almost painful to hear.

But, what is music?
Grandpa Jack standing silently
as the tree that gave apricots year after year
for Grandma Rose's sweet jam...
his finger an obelisk,
a sundial post,
a resting place for Monarchs.

What is falling?
We slowed to a stop.
Our tandem bike tilted,
spilling us like playing cards onto a table of grass.
Grandpa Jack and I, on our backs,
looked up at a passing cloud.




My Wife's Creation

Periwinkles on the beach
resemble chocolate chips
in those cookies she bakes––
the only time she follows a recipe.
Certainly those shells look friendly
when you see a bunch of them
poured by the tide into a hollow of sand
as if–– in those days
when their snails were inside them
in the halls of the deep––
they had all vowed eternal togetherness.
And the cool wet sand looks just like batter.
Still, I walk on it,
my thoughts drifting to our driveway,
which used to be just raw earth
until–– the year of her cataract surgery––
she began covering it with glacial till from our garden,
then, since stones are irresistible,
milky white quartz from Lake Boon,
blue slate from Woodstock,
veined green Vermont marble,
speckled red granite from the Cape.
I told her it would take years that way
as we looked down at those stolen stones––
they appeared lonely––
but she gazed through me as if I were
a mist machine, and kept adding more,
sometimes one pebble at a time,
So I added a few as well.
Now as the tide wets my feet,
I wonder if I should help more,
because I like her continuous spillage of stones,
but silt spreads over the stones,
weeds grow between the stones,
car tires press the stones back into the earth,
which welcomes them eagerly
and swallows them.


Joel Moskowitz, an artist and picture framer in Sudbury, Massachusetts, has had poems published in J Journal,MidstreamThe Healing MuseNaugatuck River ReviewWhiskey Island Magazine, and The New Vilna Review. He is the first place winner of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire’s National Contest, November, 2008.