RETIREMENT

He would arrive as I was still struggling
to convince the dog that he didn’t need
to drag me around the neighborhood,
that he knew the backyard well enough.

I’d lose the argument in the end, that
was a given, but he’d concede me
enough time to wolf down breakfast,
and I’d hear the small door in the wall
open and then the clatter of bottles
that the milkman deposited there.

Now it’s paper cartons from the grocery,
the dog and several successors are now
in whatever Valhalla is set aside for canines,
and I suspect I may be getting
lactose intolerant, which has nothing
at all to do with how I now spend
my mornings, with toast and a cortado
on the patio, deep into my New York Times,
trying to remember my long-gone youth.

The snail oozes slowly
across the gravel floor of the aquarium.
He would have you believe
his slow progression is normal, for
snails have cultivated people
to this view for millennia, the easier
to go ignored through life.
He is comfortable with my staring,
turns his back to me and meanders away
hoping I will grow weary of his glacial pace.
I finally nod and turn away,
allowing him to return to his breakfast
and say to him, “I’m sure the doctor
enjoys your algae cleaning almost
as much as you enjoy your vegetarian buffet.”
Turning back to him moments later
he is scurrying up the wall of the tank
thinking he is unseen, headed
for his morning nap under the warm
light of the long fluorescent
sun that is carefully anchored overhead.