On Saturday morning, February 2, 2019, I went to Heirloom Cafe and sat at the brunch bar – I did not tell anyone that Reggie had died the day before. I pretended like nothing had happened when Rachel, the brunch server, asked me how I was doing. As I was spooning the creamy white foam off the top of a soy cappuccino, imagining what it would taste like if it were ice cream instead, the inspiration hit – and I had to write it down – a poem about my beloved Reggie. I pulled some paper out of my bag and began writing the words – they flowed without effort.
Tonight, the Athens Writers Association held our 5th Open Mic at Normal Books store on Prince Avenue. I was the last reader of the night. I did not tell the audience about the poem in advance, except that I wrote it at the brunch bar a few weeks ago. I read the poem, I didn’t cry, I held it together, which I was determined to do – it worked. At the end I told them, “My dog, Reggie, died on February 1st from colon cancer,” and then I sat down and thanked them.
Here is the poem, “Reggie,” that I wrote for him. I noticed a missed call from Loran Myers at Memory Garden for Pets on my phone. Sometime this week, I expect I will be picking up Reggie’s urn. I don’t feel ready. Right now, it feels better to have his spirit in the house, but it will never be easy….
By Jill Hartmann-Roberts
Your brown coat on the pillow,
Still full of your scent.
Your hooded brown raincoat laying on the floor.
Your empty dog bed –
The last night
I found you there,
Snuggled in the crocheted blankets.
Your favorite nyla bone chew toy,
Brown and worn down at the edges-
The blue rubber center still clean and intact.
Stains from your cancer on the sheets,
On the white down comforter,
On the carpet where I slowly set down my feet.
I rub the bottoms back and forth and push down,
Trying to ground my body back into the earth.
Trash bags, plastic bags, tied up,
Filled with soiled paper towels,
The smell beginning to fade after so many weeks.
A purple cushion where you took your last breath,
Your eyes were open –
They went glassy as you left me,
Her stethoscope against your chest,
You weren’t moving.
“He’s gone,” the vet said.
The rabies tag on your black harness,
The blue Star of David and chain choke collars
Hanging on a peg,
Your Georgia Bulldogs canvas leash with the broken latch.
The polaroid photo of you and me on a park bench,
Near the beach in San Diego
Where we walked to save the animals
A pink pig, a brown bear, a raccoon,
Your last Christmas presents.
You were too tired to chase them across the room
When I tried to play fetch with you.
The strands of your brindle fur,
Your green Christmas sweater,
The torn up faux leather beanbag,
Your favorite spot on the red couch.
Open bags of kibble you’ll never finish,
Closed cans of dog food I’ll never open,
Prescription pills unused,
Half-filled bottles of liquid medicines,
Empty syringes all over the countertops.
The empty space under the oak table
Where you sat at my feet,
As I wrote about your life.
The empty stroller.
The empty front seat in the car.
The empty food bowl.
The empty house.
The empty space in my heart.
The empty space in my life.
This is the day after the worst day,
The day we said goodbye.
My skin is crawling,
The house is silent.
This morning I called your name, “Reggie.”
But you didn’t answer.
Losing you was harder
Than I could have ever imagined.
You were still so full of life,
But the cancer said otherwise.
I had to let you go;
It was the right thing to do.
My heart has a gaping hole
That only you can fill.
You were my co-pilot,
My best friend,
I am lost without you.
I love you.
I miss you.
My sweetest boy.