Sometimes on summer nights when I was a child,
my parents took me to a drive-in theater, where
the moon, high above the biggest screen I’d ever
seen, beamed down on rows of cars, arranged
in their spaces like lines on a ruler. In the car
next to us, teenagers kissed, their car windows
fogged in the August heat. “Making out,” I told
my parents, a term I learned from a younger cousin.
But the drive-in became a marginal joy the night
I saw Old Yeller—the gunshot, the dog’s still body—
and I felt for the first time what I would later call
sorrow. All the way home I struggled with fear
for my parents, myself, my own dog (Missy)
who would die the night I graduated from high
school. But that was the future, and I had just
learned that we lose what we love.
All these years later, sometimes on summer
nights, I dream of Missy, far beyond my hands
that would touch her one more time; and I
would give so much to be at that drive-in again:
my mother’s head, soft on my father’s shoulder,
my father blowing smoke rings through the
window of a ’48 Hudson, smoke rings that rose
above the lines of cars and circled the moon.