Getting On

Yeats was a golden doodle who died too soon. A member of the family, my daughter called her Sister and told her daughters Yeats was their aunt. It was meant to be fun, but it was also befitting. She was the third member of our household — Sandy, Joe, Yeats. She completed us.

She was born, as close as we can tell, December 8, 2008. She died September 20, 2018. Nine years 9 months. Too soon. She is missed, but she will always be a part of who we are.

This poem, which was first published in the Spring 2018 issue of The Big Windows Review, a publication of the Writing Center at Washtenaw Community College, is not about Yeats. But its publication here is dedicated to her memory and to her ongoing presence in our hearts and our minds.

You are missed, Yeats.

Getting On
Joseph Saling

You never knew what we were about, so days
turned to pebbles in your shoe. You wanted
to quit the path, sow seed and watch it grow.
But that place was not for us. I tried to take
the bundled twigs you carried to build a fire,
but you had chosen each the way a child
gets seashells at the beach and wants the next
to be better than the last, coated with pearl.

You often asked where we were going, but I
didn’t hear; the wind was so strong it swallowed your voice.
You’d scan the edge of sky but found nothing
to see. At night you’d walk away from where
I lay until I became as distant as
the stars that seasoned the dark. The sun and cold
made our skin like leather; our souls immune to time.

One day we saw a colony of ants
go marching off to war. You followed them
until you saw their swift red current swirl
into a sea swelling with death then watched
as red pygmies clashed with giants, picking up
their dead and dragging their black bodied foe behind.
Later you cried. And when I asked you why,
you couldn’t say beyond its awful silence.

We came on houses built among the rocks
and gardens spackling the earth. You asked to stop
to splash your face with water from their wells,
to rock on weather-grayed porches and feel the touch
of another woman’s voice besides your own.
Later, you found stones and showed me pictures of birds
rising unimpeded toward the sun.

In towns where farmers sold fresh fruit, we walked
among them, sat with them at night. I heard you laugh
and saw their light reflecting in your eyes.
Brighter than the stars, softer than the moon.
A mountain crazed the rim of heaven’s bowl.
A city rose like the mountain’s child. Its streets
flowed like liquid music, its walls shimmered
like pearl in the morning sun, its windows blazed.

You said I should go ahead. You said you’d stay.
I lost my way. Against a wall of stone,
I watched the lights rise from the city. I
had nothing to do but wait for dawn to creep
across the sky, erasing stars. The world
around me shivered with sound, a staccato dawn,
the polyphonous hillside spotted with bird song.

And I had somewhere else I needed to be.
Having seen the wonders of liquid music and glass
on fire and you becoming you, I turned
and made my way down the mountain’s other side.

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 2018.


One thought on “Getting On

  1. Dad,

    I’ve never read that poem before, it is absolutely stunning.

    I’m so sorry to hear about Yeats’ passing. Please give Sandy a big hug from me and get one from me back from her.

    Your universe is changing at this moment and I feel for you deep in my heart and soul. My mind is racing with my thoughts about Grandma, and fresh donuts, and those crispy flat waffle things, all the Thanksgivings and Christmases and her giant car, and of course, you and your brothers and what an amazing family she raised. And trying to get her to stop serving and sit at the table with us to eat. And Grandpa happily, knowingly, having won the lottery of life, grinning and buttering his bread, with nothing less than real butter in an age of margarine. Passing olives, butter, or salt around the table has never been so difficult, nor entertaining, since, although Genevieve gets it.

    Dad I love you and my heart is breaking for you right now. I’m glad you’re able to get to Columbus to be by her side. I love where I live all except for the distance from my immediate family, but I think our lot in life has always been to go far and wide, divide and conquer.

    Please call whenever you need to. I’m right here.

    I, we, love you. Hang in there.

    Your loving son,



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