The Velvet Labyrinth

The May night is cool between storm fronts.

Walking an old dog in the post-midnight quiet,

She pauses to sniff blades of grass

Or a single leaf on a branch of many.

We are enfolded in this easy darkness,

 

Beneath ancient street lamps

That spill their light like butter

Glinting through the branches of now-mature trees

Or creamed over crackled pavements and slouching curbs.

 

Deep in the woods, where color loses meaning after dusk,

The Great Horned Owls question and cackle amongst themselves.

Deeper still, where the creek flows swift and sweet

And its banks grow steep with wildness,

The coyotes are whelping,

And the pups disturb sleeping house pets

With the trying on of their singing voices.

 

An old dog pauses, marks her arthritic territory,

And steps back into the street from the dew-wet neighbor’s lawn.

The sound of her claws, clicking against asphalt,

The chilling laughter of the owls,

And the deep, slow-breathing presence of the night itself

All overlaid with the thick, sweet perfume

Of the honeysuckle vines.

 

A phantom scent, present in the turn of the head,

A momentary wafting on the dew-dense air.

Cool and clinging to the memory

Of long grasses. Back fields and deeply shaded water.

Packed lunches. Sunburns.

Daylight.

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