TRALEE, IRELAND, DAYS AGO
I’ve been traveling so long
I forget what country this is. I can read all the signs
in the hotel, but it’s not enough. It could be Ireland,
or Heaven, or Mars. A black dog sits next to me
with a white bib, wary, curious. I ask the concierge,
“Is this a member of your staff?” “Ay,” he says,
“A stray. Showed up days ago.” I finish checking in,
drag a bunch of America to my room, take a nap.
Later, when I step out for a walk, I find the dog
waiting in the hall. “Days Ago,” I say aloud.
“Your name is Days Ago.”
He follows me to a park
across the street, not quite at my side, but with me.
I speak to him in a full voice, ask questions, give him
time to answer, and interpret his silence. No one
pays much attention, though a policeman tracks me
for a moment. Likely because I’ve used the word
“terrorism” a few times, loud enough to be heard
across the fish pond.
Days Ago, like all dogs,
can’t talk or is choosing his moment. He withholds
any opinion on terror, foreign or domestic. When
I mention poetry, he yawns. Yeah, tell me about it.
We find a bench and claim it. “You’ve done this before,”
I say. It gets a smile. He does that donut thing his kind
are so good at—cats, too—where they can lie on one side
and still be sitting up. I naturally start stroking his neck
“Did’ya hear about Mars?” I ask.
“Once again, they think they found life but aren’t sure.
Apparently, it’s harder to spot than anyone guessed.”
His fur is so black, it hardly shines. I lose my hand in it.
He’s tracking the policeman now. I’m thinking about
space, how astronomers say almost a third of it is made
of something called Dark Matter, mass that swallows
light. Or drinks it. Or, I think now, loses light in its coat.
“You know, Days Ago,
whenever they don’t find life
on other planets, I can’t help but think it means they
also can’t find death. So far as we know, there’s no
death anywhere on Mars. None on the moon, for that
matter. A few people have died in space. But how
do we know they didn’t bring death with them?
They were people after all.” Days Ago is looking
at me, right into my eyes. He clears his throat.
—from Rattle #78, Winter 2022
Brendan Constantine: “I have to say, I get a lot of inspiration from just going out and pretending I’ve never been to this planet before. It’s a great way to remember just how absurd, strange, beautiful, and unlikely everything is around you. If I can stay in that childish frame of mind, in that place of possibility where you watch somebody get into an elevator, the doors close, then open again and five people come out and it occurs to you ‘That’s where you go to become five people!’ Or you cut your hair and more grows out and you cut your hair and more grows out and you deduce, ‘The human head must be packed with hair.’ If I can practice daily astonishment, I find that I’m a little more pleasant, patient, and forgiving. You never know what you’re going to hear outside your window. Sometimes it brings a whole world with it.” (web)