In dog years, I would have died some time
circa 1979.

I’m just following doctor’s orders—
brisk daily walks, fish oil

pills for my heart, no sweets
and no liquor—

but the aging yuppies in their cookie-cutter
condos still let

their Jack Russells chase after me.

I’m a virtual ascetic at only
thirty-five,

though I’m not above firebombing
their impatiens

like they were Dresden and this was 1945.

*

I didn’t call 9-1-1. I suppose I could have died.

I accidentally set fire to a trashcan in my
parents’ garage once—

I had emptied an ashtray before the last cigarette
was completely out.

I used a 25-lb. bag of kitty litter to smother
the larger flames,

then ran glasses of water from the kitchen
until the fire was out.

Oily residue clung to my hair, streaked
my face and hands.

That night I had vivid, adrenaline-jittery
dreams about box elders

that spat mercury-filled helicopter seeds.

The blistered smell of the burnt rubber lingered
in the house for the rest

of the long Fourth of July weekend.

*

The clocks are all turned back.

In a downtown hospital, my grandfather has
spent three nights

hovering near death—

pneumonic, partial renal failure,
a blood infection.

This morning, the nurses said he was showing
signs of recovery.

He’s going to find a way to outlive us all.

I’m thankful for his stubbornness; I hope there’s
some of it in me.

I hung up and went for a walk; there was still
frost on the shaded parts

of the condo’s lawns, ankle-deep piles of wet,
drifted leaves in the corners

of the subdivision’s dead-end streets.

Quiet, except for the scuff of my shoes
on the asphalt

and the music bleeding out of my headphones
into the chilly November air.