white field. And the dog
dashing past me
into the blank,
toward the nothing.
not running anymore but
this idea of him, still
in his gold
fur, being
what I loved him for
first, so that now
on the blankets piled
in one corner
of the animal hospital
where they’ve brought him out
a final hour, two,
before the needle
with its cold
he trembles with what
he once was: breath
and muscle puncturing
the snow, sudden
stetting over the tips
of the meadow’s buried
grasses after—what
was it, a rabbit?
Field mouse? Dashing
past me on my skis,
for the first time
faster, as if
he had been hiding this,
his good uses. What
a shock to watch
what you know unfold
deeper into, or out of
itself. It is like
loving an animal:
hopeless, an extravagance
we were meant for,
continually, by the depth
of what we’re willing
to feel. The tips
of the grasses high
in the white. And the flat
light, drops of water
on the gold
coat, the red, the needle
moving in, then out,
and now the sound of an animal
rushing past me in the snow.

Women's Studies front coverPaisley Rekdal is the author of a book of essays, The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee; a photo-text memoir that combines poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and photography entitled Intimate; and four books of poetry: A Crash of Rhinos, Six Girls Without Pants, The Invention of the Kaleidoscope, and Animal Eye, which won the UNT Rilke Prize. Her work has received the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a NEA Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, a Fulbright Fellowship, and various state arts council awards.
“Once” originally appeared in Women’s Studies (TLR, Winter 2015).