I wake up at 5:05 a.m. to pick my poodle’s eyes open.
Lift her off the couch to pee outside.
It is twelve degrees and she eats the snow. It must feel good in her old throat.
I stand without socks at the sliding door guiding her up an Astroturfed ramp.
She eats four tins of Cesar Beef Recipe dog food and waits to be carried down
to my mom’s green pull-out couch in the basement.
I cover her with a teal comforter,
tell her to have a good day at work.
(She no longer asks to be petted but I do this part anyway.)
I go upstairs to have my K-cup coffee.
Pour my Starbucks caramel creamer into the glass mug everyone knows not to take.
Drink it in the dark at the kitchen table.  

My mom’s birthday is next week.
For a few years after she died I went to the Paper Store
and stood for way too long in the card aisle selecting the right one.
I used to call her every morning at 6:15 on my commute.
I have her flip phone in my purse.
Her pocketbook is next to my nightstand.
She would have been ninety-two.
I have the peppermint oil I bought her in bulk on Amazon the day before she died.
Apply it to my wrists now and then.
We would go to Burtons for a birthday martini. She liked hers dirty. Relished the olives.
We would sit at the round table by the front.
I would help her walk, then walker, then wheelchair
over to Chico’s to buy some black blouses.
The same saleslady would greet us and ask how we were doing and
I wonder if she is still there.  

It is still dark when I start my car.
Clear just enough frost off to make it
until the heat kicks in.
I always come back to the same playlist now,
Continuum timed perfectly for each traffic light.
One, two, one-two-three—