The Constance Pultz Prize
After a night away
I come home to find
my dog chewing my journal—
the serious words, slobber-smeared,
the careful punctuation, pockmarked.
Bess looks up and wags,
still chomping away.
She missed me
and so she gobbled up
whatever smell of me she could find,
the same way I buried my face
in my father’s things just after he died—
shoehorns, business cards, old keys
opening no one knows what,
pens, coins, a watch chain,
the laminated wallet photos,
with edges curled from flipping,
and his writing, so many words—
scribbled names and addresses,
numbers on yellow receipts,
his signature, sometimes circled
or dotted with exclamation, arrows
signifying some small excitement
no one can reconfigure now.
I look at Bess
in the morning light,
her mouth, full of chewed up words—
how right it seems to eat them,
what luxury to gorge
without ever understanding
(wish, miss, lost, gone)
what any of it means.