Read an Excerpt
Behind his house, my father’s dogs sleep in kennels, beautiful,
he built just for them.
They do not bark.
Do they know he is dead?
They wag their tails
& head. They beg
& are fed.
Their grief is colossal
Each day they wake seeking his voice,
By dusk they seem to unremember everything—
to them even hunger is a game. For that, I envy.
For that, I cannot bear to watch them
pacing their cage. I try to remember they love best confined space to feel safe. Each day
a saint comes by to feed the pair
& I draw closer the shades.
I’ve begun to think of them as my father’s other sons,
as kin. Brothers-in-paw.
My eyes each day thaw.
One day the water cuts off.
Then back on.
They are outside dogs—
which is to say, healthy
& victorious, purposeful
& one giant muscle like the heart. Dad taught them not to bark, to point
out their prey. To stay.
Were they there that day?
They call me
like witnesses & will not say.
I ask for their care
& their carelessness—
wish of them forgiveness.
I must give them away.
I must find for them homes,
sleep restless in his.
All night I expect they pace as I do, each dog like an eye
roaming with the dead beneath an unlocked lid.
Thunder knocks loud on all the doors.
Lightning lets you inside every house,
the spare, spotless rooms.
Flags at half mast.
And like choirboys,
clockwork, the dogs ladder their voices
to the dark, echoing off each half-hid star.
It never ends, the bruise of being—messy,
untimely, the breath
of newborns uneven, half pant, as they find their rhythm, inexact
as vengeance. Son,
while you sleep we watch you like a kettle
learning to whistle.
you fumble now
in the most graceful way—grateful to have seen you, on your own
steam, simply eating, slow,
chewing—this bloom of being. Almost beautiful
how you flounder, mouth full, bite the edges of this world that doesn’t want
a thing but to keep turning with, or without you—
with. With. Child, hold fast
I say, to this greening thing as it erodes and spins.