You stood there waiting, smiling as per usual
tapping out your signature tattoo
as you shifted weight from paw to paw
the joy of anticipation dancing in your eyes.
At the ready
to do another back flip if need be
or just for the hell of it
on your way to intercepting the next toss.
But then we saw the danger of such pure innocence and trust
as we stood by the slippery Falls.
We admonished the boy – your boy – your very own boy
But the three-year-old cherub with cherry smeared lips
smiled coyly and let loose a hardness
while pretending not to
just to test the truth of what the big people claimed
that you were the guileless one of our lot
the hero of our picnic
who was sure to chase down and return your boy’s treasure
no matter where it flew.
And so it went. The last of the tiny orbs rolled
down the boy’s upturned palm
dribbled off his fingertips
one bounce from grass to granite
another to the slippery edge
then traversing ricochet upon ricochet
down down along the Falls to the roiling eddy below.
Now the boy’s eyes wide open
no longer squinting in challenge
as he saw that we were telling true.
You matched the pit
bounce for bounce
grass to granite to rim
then slipping over and down
eyes as wide now as the boy’s
not so much in fear
but in awe of an unknown abyss.
In you went – foosh!
Under then up then under again
as you fought against the power of the water.
We ran downstream remember?
Called you out of the vortex.
Out of the dark drowning
you came to my voice as always
swam with all your strength and finally broke free
a fleeting smile of recognition.
This is familiar you thought.
I’ll just swim to her and climb out.
But you my angel did not have the wings or the talons
needed to scale the steep and slippery granite walls.
Then without speaking
too scared most likely to utter any sounds
we formed a ladder hands to ankles hands to ankles
four persons long with the strongest of us at the bottom
within arms’ reach of the water.
From the middle of the ladder again I called to you.
And again you came to me as always
eyes a little brighter now
as if to say ah there you are
nothing to fear now.
The strongman’s arm reached out
finally managing to grab both scruff and collar.
One adrenalized toss
gave you purchase on the strongman’s back.
Up you walked (What else?
Don’t living ladders always appear
out of nowhere when you need them?)
scrambling over backs and legs and feet and heads
until reaching the rim of the little canyon.
As we metamorphosed from ladder to scolding grown-ups
you sweetest of the sweet shook yourself off
looked around briefly – for me? Oh, no!
For your boy your very own boy.
You ran to him smiling prancing
trusting in that moment that the toss would be good
all would be as before.
At the ready
to do backflips if need be
or just for the hell of it.
Jami Hanreddy lives near Gills Rock in an interspecies household with Joe, Fred, Emma and the wolf who hangs around outside hoping to mate with Emma.