Q Is the Quick

“The quick brown fox jumps
Over the lazy dog”: it was a little bedtime story
And it was only told us if we would “be quiet.”
But quiet was a difficult thing to be.
The heart makes a jump-start sound.

Each time someone comes up the steps—
Both their feet give off the white grate of shoe leather
As it meets a stair. They wanted us also to “be happy”—
Which was even more difficult
In view of the sad fact

That happiness is part of a pair called a “smug set”;
Happiness plus some other benignly self-satisfied state.
The story, once we “deserved” it, began,
“Shh, be quiet,”
Just as the quick baby was about to leap.

The story had various endings, each a variation
On the theme of danger that came from caution
Being thrown to the wind. Each ending was equally nefarious,
With the kit inevitably falling
Into the lazy dog’s mouth,

The rust color of one, fox, becoming one
With the cause of the other, a dog.
The idea of gore being nothing but a simple aside.
The endings were all perfect formulations, equal parts
Plaintive whine and equal parts plausible excuse.