chocolate is a verb

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Tag Archives: dogs

Moss Puppy

a poem, for a change

On the trail

How courteous we were
yesterday as we stepped

off the trail to allow others
plenty of room to pass

untouched, no brushing
of shoulders, not close enough

to notice that in our isolation
we hadn’t bathed, that we’d barely

climbed out of our pajamas,
run the toothbrush round

our mouths before yielding
ourselves to this extravagance

of spring, the river an icy celadon
in a stripe of afternoon sun,

moss-painted boulders big as cars,
fallen trees tossed in a snarl,

the ups and downs of the path
playing with the song

of the river, louder, softer,
as we step aside, wait, smile

at the dogs rushing to greet us,
to reassure us, it’s okay, you smell good.
© J.I. Kleinberg

found poem: tasting

found poem: city

found poem: blurred

tea leaves…

jik age 6 to DAK side 1

jik age 6 to DAK side 2

jik age 6 to DAK envelopeMuch has been thrown away, but over the years my father, my mother and I each made decisions about things that would be kept. This letter, which I wrote at age 6, was in a folder my father labeled “Treasures.”

I read it like tea leaves: the chaos of a rare rainy day in Los Angeles, the sudden rainbow, the two names with their inverted letters — Jan, the girl I envied, the girl I wanted to be, from earliest school days, and Julie, my best friend.

And the letter itself: the formality of Dear Mother (had her long absence when I was 3 and 4 changed her from Mommy and tucked a wedge of caution or suspicion into our relationship ever after?), the surprise of the quite-adult suppose, the unfinished because you, the picture of my red-headed mother in a fancy dress walking a green dog.

The letter covers both sides of a sheet of newsprint and another sheet has been folded in 6-year-old fashion into an envelope, with a liberal application of Scotch tape, and addressed in ballpoint pen, each letter carefully inscribed twice over.

So much is unknown. Sentences unfinished. Wrong-headed suppositions. But as my friends will attest, I still sign my letters xoxo and I can’t resist a green dog.




birdsnest spruce, early MayIt is so spring.

The sun creeps over the backyard fence to set the crabapple tree alight, a blaze of bright magenta.
The spruce is fringed with tiny tongues of green. Lilacs fatten in the neighbors’ yards. Robins warble at first light. Spiders cast their hungry nets.

A dog lays on her back on the grass, legs in the air, and twists back and forth.


Taco at 15Taco came to live with us when I was 16. She was a pug. Ostensibly, she was my pug, but the stirrings of my departure for college were already in the air and she slipped easily into the role of my parents’ late-life love child.

This was before pugs had reached epic popularity and many of our friends had never seen one. We had traveled to a distant valley of the Los Angeles basin to collect her, bringing her home on my birthday with a list of new-pug instructions about food and toenails and ointment for the folds of her little black face.

Like me, Taco had to observe my mother’s rules. But unlike me, she never seemed to mind and she certainly never complained.

She was a sweet-natured dog, affectionate and undemanding, always ready for a cuddle or a tussle or a full-speed dash around “the island” at the center of our house — kitchen, hall, hall, dining room, kitchen — her tail tucked, her back humped up, her feet skittering as she tried to gain purchase on the linoleum.

After I left home, at 17, my mother fed her and walked her and sketched her, perhaps thousands of times, and Taco patiently endured Dorothy’s arty crocheted dog sweaters. But it was my father who would get down on the floor and roll around with her. It was his lap she sought, the two of them snoring through their evening nap. He was the one who brushed her and played with her and gave her unqualified love through the remaining 15 years of her pugness.

And yet, each time I came home — alone, with a pal, even with another dog — Taco was ready to be mine again, for a day or a weekend or a week. She was a wonderful friend: generous in her forgiveness, acceptance, affection and love.

Decades have passed since I touched that velvety head but she still finds her way into my dreams.


PotatoHearing a noise at the back gate, I walk over to the window that faces into the yard. There, just a few feet away, the woman who lives upstairs is leaning over the gate, patting Potato on the head, pat-pat-pat. She says to Potato, “Do you have a lot of nice clothes?” Potato, who is then and always naked, except for her feathery brown coat, gazes up at the woman and says nothing.

This happened a long time ago.

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