My mother found the dog rooting through
the mulch out back, nosing rotten cabbage leaves.
A blood shot eye. Need pushed deep into its nostrils.
What could she do but love the animal,
this famished stray, dirt steeled firm to its skin.
She nursed the creature back. Took to the fells
each day. Wandered the gravel paths
above the stacks and kilns, happy to be absent
from the tempers of that house. It didn’t last.
Her father kicked the animal out one night.
Snatched his supper plate and slammed it
against the wall. My mother rubs her arm
as she speaks. Eighty years on, she still feels it,
that sting, that phantom shard of porcelain.
Weekends, he parks his bike at the oak
and eases through the chapel turnstile.
As usual, a satchel slung over his back
filled with clippers, trowels, a bunch of
wildflowers. He walks to her plot, takes
out his tools and begins, digging out
a thin trench of soil, trimming its frame.
And what else can he do for her now
but this weekly crop and mend. His face
lost to a rampant beard. Below him,
daffodils, their ceaseless gold alarms.
Adam Chiles’ latest collection Bluff will be published by Measure Press this Summer. His work has been anthologized in Best New Poets 2006 (Samovar) and has appeared in numerous journals including Barrow Street, Beloit Poetry Journal, Cimarron Review, Copper Nickel, Cortland Review, Connotation Press, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, The Literary Review, Magma, Permafrost, RHINO, The Threepenny Review and Thrush Poetry Review. He is professor of English and Creative Writing at Northern Virginia Community College and serves on the editorial board at Poet Lore.