Leaving Words Behind

It all started with a walk and a dog
The dog, Kukui, with his tail that whirls like a helicopter
Brisk little legs to lead us down the street
his morning business completed with a flourish of kicking
I had forgotten my part: no doggie bags at hand
Thus a trip back and forth
A necessary annoyance

My husband, hands poised on the open car door
listens to my grievances
He always checks the leash
Why can’t I do that?
I tell him
Everyone needs to be responsible, never leave the leash empty

He drives off
And all I can see are the leaves littering our yard
And all I can hear is the whirling exchange of words,
Rake in hand
Agitated, like the wind scattering the leaves
What about my daughter?  Where is she?  When will she come down to help?
Amidst this chorus of complaints
My mind leaps,
changing direction like a spinning weathervane

I recall a photograph, one of many, flashing on the news
faces from the mass shootings, two this week
An Asian woman smiles next to her two sons
And I wonder
What did she say to her young men as she went off to work?
Was it of forgotten chores or next week’s schedule?
Dinner is in the fridge?
Words of love disguised as lectures, expectations, mundane reminders?
Smiling and not knowing, tomorrow everything will change

I shake my head free of this imagined moment
Gazing down at the little piles of sticky blossoms,
soaked in rain, heavy with loss
Over head the tree is abundant and ripening
Tiny avocados among blossoms still yellow-green
I keep raking and raking
Believing that I will indeed kiss my husband when he returns
And I will soon smile at my daughter when I go inside
And next time I will remember to check the leash before I go out
And I wonder
Who is responsible?
And I wonder
Who knows when your words will be your last?
And I wonder
Will my words be like fallen leaves?
Or will they be blossoming with life?

Cheryl Treiber-Kawaoka lives in Hawaii with her husband Gerald and daughter Grace and their dog, Kukui.  Recently retired as an arts educator at University of Hawaii, she is very grateful to be able to Zoom with her class From Writing Circles to Poems of Gratitude and Hope.

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  1. Leslie A Fraser says

    I can relate so much to this evocative poem. Too often have I not left my words behind and regretted it. Such love, beauty and grace in this powerful piece. What a wonderful poet. Looking forward to more of her work!

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