Betsy

In memory of Bill Popps, Pentwater, Michigan

I was strong then, nineteen,
but knew dawn would bring duck hunters, business;
so spaced off the barking,
curled, covers high,
into dreams of forming sheets,
our livery shallows thickening.

I woke too early.
Snow, silence … Boots, pants, parka.

Outside, moon-grey, broken through,
Heinz’s shepherd,
panting white,
treading,
treaded through the night.

The ladder down, ice holding, I heaved;
and that big dog was shaking
water on the shore.

She ran a hundred yards up the hill before turning.
Paws to chest,
my fingers through her stiffened beard,
her eyes, mine.
Then she went home.

—Leonard O’Brian