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Sidewalk Chalk

There are paw prints in the concrete
On the path where we walked
Down the block from the star magnolia
That only blooms in the first week of May.

I said that they were your paw prints
When we walked over them
In the middle of May.

She asked if I was telling the truth.
I thought so.
But thinking about it,
maybe there are other kids
Who see those paw prints
And think of medium-sized dogs
who used to chase rabbits
In yards near star magnolias.

Maybe they remember squatting down
And saying
Those are
Jake’s paw prints.
But they don’t actually remember
Washing wet concrete off of Jake’s paws.

I remember the concrete being laid,
I remember walking that path with you
now and again.
But I don’t remember
walking you over wet concrete.

That’s not something an adult would let himself do.
It’s a gesture a child would make,
Immortalizing himself in public concrete
Like a personal walk of fame.

But if I put your paws in wet concrete
Where are my own young handprints?
I’d have required a share in the glory,
Even if it meant rubbing the sidewalk out of my skin and nails.

You used to run away
From time to time.
Young hands would leave a side door open
And you would bound through the room full of mud
To freedom.

I don’t know why you wanted to escape
From meals and couches and trips to the beach.
Maybe you were just looking
for slower rabbits.

You could have walked over the concrete then.
That would explain why your paws tread alone over the pavement
that is both nostalgic and mysterious.

I remember yelling your name out the window
From the backseat of a car
While you were out hunting rabbits.

Was concrete flaking off your paws as you ran?
Did you turn your head
or ignore my voice altogether
While impressions of you oxidized to give one square yard of pavement
A name, an identity

If I knelt down
And traced my fingers into the grooves
And the slightly deeper pinpricks that your claws might have left
I’d expect to feel the leathery warmth of your paw in my hand.

The rain won’t wash away the warmth of the pavement.