The coyote ambles down the middle of Chester Street
and I mistake it for its domestic cousins
but it’s stouter, a strange gray white,
directionless, undecided. My dog may know
it’s not a dog because he stares blankly back at it
without his temperamental bark and growl.
In fact, my dog is silent. I am walking us backward
without realizing, and then we turn and run.
I feel stupid three blocks down
and swear I’ll never walk down that street again.
But that was spring, and I’ve walked that way
early and late with Vinny nearly every day since
and no coyotes—they’re in winter mode somewhere
and I find I’m missing the thrill of seeing one so out of place.
At certain corners, Vinny comes to a dead stop and stares,
a very slight whimper in his breath,
or he moves past the corner and stands imperiously
mid-way through the block to cross the street.
Because he is dying, I let him lead the way. We cross the street
and he stops again, at the base of the stoop
of Mary’s house, the woman who lives alone now,
whose brother calls her from the VA hospital each day.
In spring, if she’s still on this earth, she’ll sit outside, call Vinny to her
good boy and of her brother,
she’ll tell me how often he calls and what he’s eating,
he’s livin the life o’ Riley over there
adding her sweet cackle. Fearing the wild as I do
I marvel at them both, Mary and Vinny
in their simple union, the way it’s carved a space
inside my dog’s tight memory.
Julia Lisella’s most recent collection, Our Lively Kingdom, was named a finalist for the 2023 Paterson Poetry Prize and the Eric Hoffer Book Award. Her work appears in Ploughshares, Nimrod, and other journals. She co-curates the Italian American Writers Association Boston Reading Series. For more, see JuliaLisellaPoetry.com.