"...he laughs at the uncanny instincts
of a wise, old golden retriever / And he feels retrieved."
A robin drops to the pavement,
grabs a twig
and is gone.
An ant zips past, caught in a steady gaze
that follows it across asphalt
and around obstacles --
a helicopter seed pod,
a plastic straw --
the gaze traces its determined path to the grass
until it, too is gone.
And the sun slips from its zenith,
unalterably toward the depths.
It could be a measure of life,
that slow sinking --
that and the steady stream of people and things
passing in and out as though carried by industrious ants
that take it all away,
undaunted by our fortress walls,
leaving nothing behind but a mark on one's soul,
the tick marks of time,
gathering and growing,
molding us into what we must become,
what we will be at the end of our vigil,
the one borne by each of us alone,
a vigil crowded with memories, both wanted and wanting,
the vigil that has brought this watcher here
to this place,
to this now,
to this tick mark
where he sits watching a robin,
a dog and its oblivious owner,
a man wearing faded blue jeans
and a crumpled tee shirt,
his face unshaven,
his eyes haunted,
his brow furrowed in the way of those
who have watched their own tick marks
taking a dream,
a love out of reach,
leaving them lost,
He watches until the other feels a gaze
finding his tick marks,
fusing them to its own.
The crumpled stranger turns,
and begins watching the watcher
who sits on the edge of a bench
on the edge of a path
into the darkening woods.
And there it is --
the end of the vigil.
The stranger's eyes find the watcher's tick marks,
filling the chasm another passage has left.
As a moist tongue strokes the watcher's hand,
he laughs at the uncanny instincts
of a wise, old golden retriever.
And he feels retrieved.
He rises, wipes his hand and reaches.
The stranger is hesitant, but his grip is firm.
And then his eyes gain focus
as the sun drops to the pavement,
chases two shadows to the trees,