It’s taken years to teach him to trust
Charlie balances precariously on my knees
While I sheer his long winter coat
With noisy electric sheep clippers
He’s a bit too large for a lap dog
His legs shake and skin crawls
As I ease away the shaggy fur
I check his split lower lip where he fell against
The stone steps yesterday
In a rush to greet me.
His blinking winces,
tells me how much it still hurts.
I massage along twisted aching vertebrae
Where he was hit by a car two years
I shave it close, to the skin
Because he’s suffering with the absurdly hot
And pink patches of bare
I add aloe and sunscreen to his tender skin
Already bright red from blaze of spring.
My fingers crave long silky ruff
At the nape of his neck
That drains away the pain of early
When I bury my fingertips.
He stops trembling long enough to
check my throbbing thumbnail,
hit with a hammer
then, my forehead where I raised up too fast
And snapped against solid birch kitchen cabinets.
He licks my salty face
Surprised by the taste
He stares at me with an odd grimace.
Tastes my cheeks again.
He leans hard against my rib cage.
Resting his sun-warmed face along my neck
And sighs deeply.