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“It happens in an instant. It is all one long day,
one endless afternoon, friends leave,
we stand alone on the shore.”
            – James Salter

Low and quiet
the autumn sun,
and empty are the hills.

She had a dog, young, long-limbed;
her eyes were dark
as a new moon
her coat a priceless gold.
Puppy mill: these were her
unfortunate antecedents.
An impure blood of greed,
factories of flesh and discarded
bitches gripped her veins
but did not enclose her heart.

Empty are the hills.
The young dog
and the young woman
run the hills
hours upon hours;
they know the land, the paths
where people linger
and how to avoid them.
The young woman
and the young dog –
one as un-
as the other
is chained –

Empty are the hills
and the emptiness
is, as she runs,
a destination,
or an arrival
that will remain
even upon the approach.

The hills are more rain
than soil, the water
a silver weight in a low sky,
endlessly draining.
The sky is water,
and the curled leaves
of the aged oaks
frail fountains, all twisted edges,
then fallen.

The young dog’s paws –
large and crude
in the black-brown mud-
tread the heavy path
in strides too long
to follow.
Her gaze traces the bounding body
tense with life, senseless sense
and hunger.

The completion of a life
lies in absence –
or is it a slow stubtracting –
palimpsest erased to abstracted
fine lines,
and the mind
grows naked
as a winter branch.
Above the hill, hidden by the torrents,
a small hawk arcs
and dives through invisible waves.

—  for Richard and Mary