Hafiz picked me up
and drove me out into the countryside,
aiming the right front tire
for every mud puddle he could find,
and filling the rearview mirror
with volley after volley of clay starbursts.
Then, much to the relief
of both my kidneys and
the vehicle’s suspension,
we came across a dog breeder
and popped in to say hello.
After a cup of tea
and a profound discussion
of canine nutrition,
she invited us to see the stock.
We stepped outside
and she whistled like an old school
All the little pups came running.
They lined up in a row
and plopped down on their
head up, chest out, and eyes wide.
As we went down the line
they smiled ear to ear
like they couldn’t stand it anymore
and made puppy growls and yips
and bounced in place or fell over sideways
and licked our hands and knee caps
and lifted their front paws to touch us
and whined with the delight of being near
and created a small dust storm
with their flapping tails
until our own hearts felt like
they were going to burst.
But then there was one
down on the end, off to the side,
with narrow eyes like chiseled stone,
fixed and unmoving,
like he was a sentry posted
outside of Caesar’s spear closet.
He wore a mask with an elastic strap
to which there was attached
a tiny, pointed granite beak.
Also a harness from which there hung
a pair of wing-like contraptions.
His tail was hidden by a fan
of discarded feathers from various songbirds,
and he made little high-pitched squeals
out of the side of his mouth
the way a ventriloquist would,
from which I intuited the muffled cries
of a would-be falcon.
The owner shrugged her shoulders
and made a dismissive wave of her hand.
There’s one in every litter, she explained.
I wanted so badly to tell this one
about all of the beauty and promise
I saw behind that macabre ensemble of props,
how there was so much joy hidden behind that mask,
but when I put my compassionate hand close
to touch his head, he made one of those squeaks
I was just mentioning to you
and then tried to peck a hole through me
with the business end of that strap-on beak.
Hafiz leaned in to whisper something in my ear.
Don’t even say it, I said,
still smarting from the little bastard’s assault,
holding up my hand like a traffic cop,
and thinking of smacking Hafiz one
right in the shoulder
if he got any closer
with that ha-ha twinkle in his eye.
I know I know… I said…
(rolling my eyes)…
that’s how I look
to the Beloved when I go around all day
acting like a very serious man.
What I was going to say, he offered,
is that falcons don’t particularly enjoy
being patted on the head,
but you might offer him a piece
of this bloody steak instead.
So I did.
He flipped his toy beak up
like a jeweler’s lens
and pecked the meat right down,
then went back to his
though unable to totally suppress
a devilish twitch of his tail.
On the way home
Hafiz put the top down
and our newfound friend sat in the backseat
on a stack of old books
with his tongue dangling in the breeze
and his wings cranked out either side
to their maximum extents,
their pasted on feathers shimmying in the wind,
his eyes wide and watery,
and in his heart…