I’m a child. And she’s a child

of a distant century, glaring at me

from the hard matrix of those tiger’s-eye

irises of hers, forged in the fiery

furnace of some Calvinist mission field—

a holdout against the coming onslaught.

“Some day,” she would aver, “the skies

will be brighter!” But in the meantime,

you rage against the Not-You, and hate

its every form and shape, rearguard action

against the coming despoilers of your Assurance.


On that day, I tell her how much I love

my dog, an obese and mange-infested beast

that, nonetheless, is frankly lovable.

“You can’t love an animal!”

she further avers. No soul, I suppose.

No place in the New Jerusalem.


But here am I, sixty years hence,

in the vet’s nondescript little Exam Room 2,

cradling my latest love. He’s just died,

aged seven in dog years. (I hurt all the more

when I learn their puny human equivalent.)

His front legs have lost the tensile undergirding

that had held him at perked-ear attention,

then catapulted him over the hill in our backyard

to parry at the fence line with the neighbor dog.


Now those legs, shag-haired, jet black

though they are, are like the arms of a child,

enfolding my arm with death-granted poise.

And today, Grandmama, a paradox:

the skies are infinitely brighter.


Lee Passarella served as senior literary editor for Atlanta Review magazine and as editor-in-chief of Coreopsis Books, a poetry-book publisher. He also writes classical music reviews for Audiophile Audition.

Passarella’s poetry has appeared in Chelsea, Cream City Review, Louisville Review, The Formalist, Antietam Review, Journal of the American Medical Association, The Literary Review, Edge City Review, The Wallace Stevens Journal, Snake Nation Review, Umbrella, Slant, Cortland Review, and many other periodicals and ezines.

Swallowed up in Victory, Passarella’s long narrative poem based on the American Civil War, was published by White Mane Books in 2002. It has been praised by poet Andrew Hudgins as a work that is “compelling and engrossing as a novel.” Passarella’s has published two poetry collections: The Geometry of Loneliness (David Robert Books, 2006) and Redemption (FutureCycle Press, 2014). Passarella also has two poetry chapbooks: Sight-Reading Schumann (Pudding House Publications, 2007) and Magnetic North (Finishing Line Press, 2016).