answers to what comes next

Sweet B1 and I spent so much time together; before B2 and her married, before sweet Everett came along, we were housemates. And in that time she shared many wonderful poems and poets with me. On a car ride into town one weekend afternoon, B1 recited this entire poem, and I fell in love with it on the spot.  
"How to Like it"These are the first days of fall. The wind at evening smells of roads still to be traveled, while the sound of leaves blowing across the lawns is like an unsettled feeling in the blood, the desire to get in a car and just keep driving.

A man and a dog descend their front steps.The dog says, Let’s go downtown and get crazy drunk.

Let’s tip over all the trash cans we can find. Thi
s is how dogs deal with the prospect of change.

But in his sense of the season, the man is struck by the oppressiveness of his past, how his memories which were shifting and fluid have grown more solid until it seems he can see remembered faces caught up among the dark places in the trees.

The dog says, Let’s pick up some girls and just rip off their clothes. Let’s dig holes everywhere.

Above his house, the man notices wisps of cloud crossing the face of the moon. Like in a movie, he says to himself, a movie about a person leaving on a journey. He looks down the street to the hills outside of town and finds the cut where the road heads north. He thinks of driving on that road and the dusty smell of the car heater, which hasn’t been used since last winter.

The dog says, Let’s go down to the diner and sniff people’s legs. Let’s stuff ourselves on burgers.

In the man’s mind, the road is empty and dark. Pine trees press down to the edge of the shoulder, where the eyes of animals, fixed in his headlights, shine like small cautions against the night. Sometimes a passing truck makes his whole car shake.

The dog says, Let’s go to sleep. Let’s lie down by the fire and put our tails over our noses.

But the man wants to drive all night, crossing one state line after another, and never stop until the sun creeps into his rearview mirror.

Then he’ll pull over and rest awhile before starting again, and at dusk he’ll crest a hill and there, filling a valley, will be the lights of a city entirely new to him.

But the dog says, Let’s just go back inside. Let’s not do anything tonight. So they walk back up the sidewalk to the front steps.

How is it possible to want so many things and still want nothing. The man wants to sleep and wants to hit his head again and again against a wall. Why is it all so difficult?

But the dog says, Let’s go make a sandwich. Let’s make the tallest sandwich anyone’s ever seen.

And that’s what they do and that’s where the man’s wife finds him, staring into the refrigerator as if into the place where the answers are kept-the ones telling why you get up in the morning and how it is possible to sleep at night, answers to what comes next and how to like it.

--Stephen Dobyn


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