Through a dogs eyes and mine, our limited view, asking what drives life, fire vs giant
- Ivy Nowosad
Almost spring, the greening trees surround
a tight passage, and through it
a female, red-bellied woodpecker
scoots up and down the side of a pine
probing for mites in the bark.
Its narrow beak sculpted for the task.
See it? I ask my dog.
We sit on the couch beside the picture window,
together now, how many more times?
Watching a spark of instinct,
brief glimpse of a bird’s life.
In the dog’s brown eyes, a slow burning fire
shoots off the sparks of existence.
Life sparking out of nowhere it seems,
one day vanishing ashes.
What happens next? asks the dog,
or the sparks in her eyes seems to ask, flickering.
That fire not seen, smoke without scent, burning how?
Bird smells, squirrel smells, branches bending,
little mites inside, invisible, smelling of dirt.
In mud, in wet waves, the noise of uncanny instinct,
The taste of life, salty and bitter and still.
Even gone things leave a stink.
I sniff them out, she confides.
The dog’s upright posture and sigh,
a breathy whine of curiosity,
her presence and thoughtful look, almost human.
Those wet eyes brim beneath a shag of hair,
questions like smoke circling above what fire?
If living things are like sparks shooting
from an unseen fire, do they eventually return?
Is life a circle, the serpent eating its tail?
Does the fire devour us or create us anew,
infinite phoenix stories spiraling up
and down a mirrored well,
shining in a dog’s eyes? In mine?
Scentless, senseless fire, invisible
or too big to see, something is missing.
What sparks the light box that drives us?
What fuses connect each biological syllable,
one to another, to form the language of worlds?
To the dog by my side, I ask,
Could a mite living on your skin be aware of you,
beyond your shedding cells and forest of hair?
Even if it travelled the continent of your body,
how could it know the whole of you,
much less whiff the consciousness within?
Most of you is invisible to your fleas.
What if we’re the fleas,
too close to see our host?
Does an invisible giant sustain and enfold us,
a middle earth, caregiver, home, grave, god?
While we’re busy expressing our differences,
performing the art of war, blindfolded,
asking are we getting warmer, warmer,
colder? What’s there, above and below?
Lucky if we overhear its name spoken
quietly in a dream.
Outside the window, the black and white bird flashes
its red belly a flush like the cheek color in an old tintype,
an ember in ash, a boring little phoenix.
And the dog yawns, leans in for attention,
her groan almost a purr.
In her eyes, the picture window is reflected,
and the woodpecker flies off beyond the frame.