Dorothy Gilbert
The Habit

The habit of living with others
is set deep in the body.
In their settling house, the couple hear
their gone dog's paws, the claws clicking
on the floor. Spooned against each other,
they wait for the sudden predictable dog
weight on the foot of the bed.

Home from the party, the woman opens
her door cautiously, so that the cat won't
run out into the night. Without noticing,
she feels his presence in the house. Without thinking,
she turns her head slightly, to check his bowl
that isn't there. In bed, as she turns out the light,
she arranges her feet for his space.

It will be weeks or months before these people
give up presence, know absence, in the way they move
through their rooms, or lie in bed
together or alone, or listen
for small sounds at the edge of their awareness.
Meanwhile they are propelled past the first
gash by the habit of living.