Up at dawn and to bed at sunset,
he avoids the dark hours.
The dark hours are coming for him
soon enough, he figures, and he
doesn’t appreciate the daily reminder.

And so before drifting off each evening
he takes me aside and whispers
in my big black ear, Go on Girl, get along!
Get them squirrels! Defend our land,
and claim everyone else’s as you go!

His pale eyes narrow in focus
toward some dim memory.
Raising a feeble fist in the air,
he hisses his directives:

You got to get life in your teeth
and rip it to shreds while you can.
You got to run, Girl!
Run with all your strength,
run off all the fire in your veins,
’til you’re panting and wild-eyed over
something nobody else can see or hear.
That don’t matter. Do what you will, Girl,
do it while you can.

Sniff the air for warning, sniff the ground
for promise. Dig it up, hunt it down.
Make it yours, Girl! He growls, giving me
my orders, my charge, my reason,
my occupation.

And so every night I do as he tells me.
I roam the neighborhood, belonging
to no one but myself. My world now,
what was once the world he held
by the throat, jumping down into it
from a chopper in the war.

In his dreams, he is free and fierce
and running, like me; no tether of age
or infirmity to slow or restrain.
And when I return home in the shadowy
dawn hours, muddy and roughed up
and thirsty, his eyes light up like
he’s just had the best night of his life.

Claire Juno, © 2015