“Old Dogs”


Old dogs
I sit by the creek and throw sticks
For the old great-hearted golden retriever
He splashes through the water
Like the puppy he was
Up onto the opposite bank
To fetch each one
But he brings it back only partway
(He has done this before)
And drops it onto the ground out of my reach
Then he stands over it panting triumphant
Looking me straight in the eye daring me
To come and take it and if I try
He will snatch the stick away
Just as I am about to grab it
But today I have outsmarted him
(I have done this before)
And brought along many throwing sticks
And so after each one he fails to return
I pick up another from my stash which
I throw and he fetches and delivers
To where he has dropped the others
As his pile grows larger and mine grows smaller
I watch the sunlight coming
In great broad sheets through the redwoods
And listen to the creek tell the stories
It has always told
And when I throw the last stick
We both realize it is time to go
I stand up he bounds across the creek one last time
And we head back down the trail
Two old dogs no new tricks
As vertical as possible
                                      I place my feet with care in such a world William Stafford
I have fallen twice recently,
Once onto the rocks
In a creek I was crossing
And once on a steep stairway
Outside a friend’s house.
Neither time was I injured
But it did hurt my heart
To be reminded once again
That my arthritic joints and I
Have entered the age
Of falling-down-ness
Which in my spryer moments
Still seems years and miles away.
I know I’ve got to remember
To lift my feet higher
On my strolls and hikes
And gaddings about town
And always to use a good walking stick.
I also know
That even high-stepping and the stoutest of staffs
Won’t prevent the Big Fall that looms
In the unknowable future,
My one final tumble
Into oblivion’s infinite elevator shaft.
But until that happens
I’ll do my best
To remain as vertical as possible –
Be mindful of terrain
Wear sturdy shoes
Place my feet with care.