Howling In the Distance

My dog will not obey me when the moon is full
She dances out of reach, I call to her but she is gone
Caught in the power of that pull
Late at night I might wake from strange unsettled dreams
To hear a howling in the distance, far away call
In the morning she'll be back, good dog again
Maybe bristling with burrs or favoring a paw
I'll bring her in, give her food and water, comb her coat
Pull the thorn
Make her a soft bed beside the heater
She'll take this comfort like she was born to it
Yeah, and I do too
But that howling in the distance will always be true

I sat beside your bed all night when you were sick with fever
Cool hand on your forehead, and a glass of water
You were in and out of dreams, you were on a faraway train
Moving fast
Just as the dawn broke
Your fever broke at last
I lay beside you then, and listened to you breathing
And I thought about that time last summer when we almost laid it all down
Walked away forever
It was a restless fever, burning fierce and hot
And proud
Well, maybe "love" means all I can be certain of
Is your soft breathing and the sun shining crazy through the curtain, love
We're passing through
But that howling in the distance
Will always be true

Late afternoon, sun low and red
I walk the hill behind the house, past the abandoned church
Up where the old road is cracked and overgrown with grass
The earth will inherit the earth
High on the ridge I can see across the valley
Hear the sound of hammers and the heavy machinery
Just as the sun drops below the horizon
I turn towards home and there's the full moon rising
In the morning these hills will be white with the first snow
My dog coming back across the fields, walking with a limp, moving slow
Up the path where the garden is frozen
And her footprints in the snow will be a dozen red roses
But that howling in the distance
Will always be true

©1998 Annie Gallup


Three Photographs

Somewhere in the world there is a photograph of me
Standing on boulder beside Moses Lake, and
Holding a tumbleweed the size of a bathtub
High above my head like a trophy, naked
Photo was taken by my friend Jane
We were just out of college and irrepressible
High on abstractions like "freedom" and "power"
And I would have said that's what I was expressing with that gesture
But later, when I sent the film out to be processed
And it came back with just that photo missing
I felt cheated and humiliated, like my freedom and power had been taken
And used against me
And I wonder if that photo survives even still
Taped inside the door of the janitor's locker
That's dense with layer of overlapping confiscated photos
That were taken for enthusiasm or abstraction
Taken, taken but not given back

Somewhere in the world there is a photograph of me
It was taken by a man I was in love with
On the morning he left for three weeks in Paris
Anything can happen in three weeks time
And I'd been sleepless and crying all night beside him
While he slept deep and untroubled, woke efficient and sharp
Packed his clean shirts in his matching Travelsmart luggage
Checked once more for passport, ticket, credit card
Then just before he walked into that blinding daylight and hailed a taxi
He turned to me and took my picture
Standing there in the hallway in his redwings t-shirt
Empty handed, red eyed, and then he was gone
Twenty three days later
At four-thirteen am
When he touched down at LaGuardia
It wasn't me he phoned
And I picture that photo in a stack of color snapshots
Here's La Tour Eiffel; here's La Place de la Concorde
Here's Le Pantheon; here's La Sorbonne
And here's an attraction he came to
Wide eyed, curious, detached
And then moved on

Somewhere in the world there is a photograph of me
It was taken by a stranger with a telephoto lens
He was about twenty feet away on a small rock ledge
I was roped in and climbing up the sheer cliff face
Two hundred feet above the valley floor on dicey toe and finger holds
And unaware that he was there
I was green enough to trust the rope
Good enough to have the hang of friction
I was fearless and focused on that subtle change of balanceƵ.
The long stretch...
Then I heard his shutter and he muttered something like "magnificent!"
And my consciousness zoomed out to take in the big picture
And there I was, a girl in lime green lycra
Spidered by her fingertips, high on a granite precipice
In a glorious and impossible pose
Letting go would be too easy
Instead I climbed on
But cautious now and studied
Self-conscious of the significance of my relationship to the ground
And hearing those words in my head that always speak my mother's voice
"Careful now"
But that moment, captured and lost in the blink of a shutter
Forever fixed and broken
And collected somewhere in the world
Might be the shining golden moment of my lifetime
When everything rose up together, all at once and perfectly
And then began a slow descent

©1998 Annie Gallup