Night Shopping

The dog looked
as though someone had stolen
first the fire, then the hearth, then the rug,
leaving it nothing but the pavement
on which to lay, stretched out,
guarding perhaps a last pair of slippers
or twitching the dream of a final black cat.
There was little traffic,
but enough
for a black dog on a black night

We're out 'window-hopping'
moving from pool to pool of spilled light,
staring at televisions playing in empty shops
to new saucepans, bikes and kettles,
trying not to remember the argument at home,
I reach out a toe to touch the dog,
it only looks broken,
not worn out,
as though there might still be some use in it,
as though all it needs
is to be helped the last few feet
into the shoplight,
where it might be mended,
I look up at my dad, he draws me back,
" It might be full of fleas looking for a new home "
he says

It's eyes are open
and the one I can see stares up at me,
cold and empty as a night without shops
I can't see it's teeth so
It's face seems soft, and quiet,
Waiting there, knowing it's helpless
I'm bursting inside,
Waiting there, knowing I'm helpless

Black as the alley from which he comes
a policeman nods to my Dad,
and for a moment we shuffle
in the cold of that space
between light and dark,
watching the stilled traffic of the dog
The policeman kneels,
fingers amongst the black fur at it's throat
' No collar ' he says.

He smiles at me
and slips on his glove,
picks up the dog by the tail
and lowers it into a nearby bin.
In that last moment before it's gone
I see the light catch in it's eye,
Like a shop, closed, in the night.