by David Ackley


When, like they say, “dogs ran free,”

Mickey, his long black hair brushing

the blueberries, would wander the back field

where the townies used to play ball,

the basepaths scrubbed over, boys gone to men,

old times indifferently scrubbed;

his ramblings always the same,

whether it was some scent he followed,

an invisible trail in his mind,

or habit instantly ingrained, I don't know.


He had his ways, the most intelligent,

least obedient dog I've ever had, who came when

he pleased and went where he chose.

Or maybe it was my own failing;

either way it goes, I've never loved control.


Defeated, in the end I joined him, following where

he felt like going, which was always the same route,

through the scrub and another neighbor's woodlot,

through the maple, fir and black spruce to the

low ground, swampy in spring, with the little slough

where peepers railed a constant miniature

uproar at their painful abbreviate fate. Up and around

we'd stroll past the ghosts of neighbors long gone

supplanted by others we'd never met,

to the other end, where we could glimpse

the trailer park through the pines, and the town

cemetery, more certainly inhabited, just beyond,

returning home still on the paths he'd cut

that I'd merely deepened with my heavier tread.


After he was gone, others found our track

through the field and woods, hikers,

and bikers and skiers; the occasional fox,

or deer or hungry bear, scratching the dead trees for grubs,

each no doubt thinking it theirs alone.


Now. in our town, the leashed dogs

are hauled along the hard sidewalks;

I keep the trail as best as I can,

still following his memory, and

this legacy trod into the ground,

this map of old occasion,

this track of love.