A Hill, A Cold Can, A White Dog
// Shenan Hahn
The three of us took Nigel to the park
last night. October’d settled on us then
eleven days, but at the midnight hour
the season seemed to meet us after far
too long a wait, a friend who’d missed his morning
bus, arriving worn and late but keen
to finally be home with us. We threw
a fallen branch for Nigel, saw the steam
bursts of our breathing. Swaddled in our cotton
jackets, dented cans of beer pressed cold
against our lips, the three of us were still.
The only movements were the thinly gusty
drafts, the dog’s hard lapping at the frost,
his heavy body streaking white across
the inky park, backlit by slowly swirling
orange floodlights on the trashcan rows.
We tried to call you, but you had your phone
turned off. I wondered what it was about
that night that might have mandated an
excommunication from the world
outside, what space so insulating grew
around you, radiating with the blush
of dancing, smoky laughter, forceful beats and vodka
swigs. I wondered how far north toward you
I’d have to be to feel the cast-off warmth —
New York? Connecticut? — and if it’d be
there burning for you in the morning still.
But mostly I was trying to envision
you a few years later, at my age,
wondering where you’d be on the eleventh
of October. Would that thermal glow
still keep your phone a prop, like cigarettes
you suck down for the sake of striking up
some lively words with ones who congregate
to light up theirs? Or would it be replaced
with stillness on a hill, a cold can,
a white dog?
Who would sit with you?
Would all of you be frozen, listening to
the panting, to the in and out, and in
and out of breath that beats against the wind?
I wonder at the way our breaths bring us
together on occasion. Wonder if
you know those people now, or if you’re all
adrift in traffic, changing lanes and hopping
buses, trying slowly, doggedly,
to make your way to a hill somewhere at night
that’s waiting, keen to have you sitting there:
a friend who’d missed the morning but, though worn
and late, arrived, aluminum pressed cold
between the lips and hands and, with the dog released
to scamper, drunk from deeply without words.