—Loch Henson, Diamond Springs, CA
She fled home at seventeen with
She’d been invited to rehearse and join
The story of her dream set aside
—Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO
The weekday Mass at 6 a.m.
brings the old folks out
around the church.
They move like caterpillars
some with canes,
some on walkers.
Father Doyle says the Mass
and then goes back to the rectory
to care for his mother
who cannot move or speak
because of a stroke.
And every Sunday at noon
when the church is full,
Father Doyle, in full vestments,
wheels his mother
in a lump
down the middle aisle
and lifts her like a chalice
and places her in the front pew
before he ascends to the altar.
Sometimes at night,
when his mother's asleep,
Father Doyle comes back to the Church
and rehearses in the dark
three hymns she long ago
asked him to sing at her funeral.
He practices the hymns
because the doctor said
she could go at any time.
When that time comes,
he doesn't want to miss a note.
The last thing she ever said was
"Son, I'll be listening."
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
The truck stopped. On leash they led her through a high gate, past trash cans. Intense black and red, he circled fast—a dance she didn’t know. At last, back in the truck and driven home, she put him out of mind. Her belly swelled. Restless, she wished to dig a nest in the bedroom floor. One by one the puppies dropped out, squealing at daylight, mewling for milk. She was in love eight times over, each soft pink mouth, the kneading paws, eyes like blind blue moons.
A fault line slipped in her brain—between snuggling her babies drunken with milk, and the shock of those babes growing teeth. Her first time at this job, how does she know to leap the shifting line and keep her balance? This too-bold pup—she grabs him by the scruff, takes his whole face in her jaws and gives it a squeeze. He squeals, shakes his head, trots off to see if he can rattle some more tectonic plates.
I carry one puppy out the gate to deliver him away. New master, new life. How the mother-dog—my dog—hangs with draggled eyes. I imagine that tug, like pup at teat. No words. She’d keep all of them, each one until they sucked her dry. Of eight, we’ll choose just one for her, for me; pluck it from this wild and heaving crying puppy-mass; take long walks with it, look it in the eye, learn its singular language.
Scrupulous as worry, rummaging under cushions for his secrets—somewhere he left the toy that squeaks like a wounded rabbit. She’d be less crazy if her remaining pup didn’t play at war, swallowing bone chips instead of bullets. Does she watch him hold his breath as if dead; dream one stone down his gullet, then another? In his sleep he chases dragons. Beyond her sight the sand-flats erode. Does she dare to think of never letting go? Her jaws around his head, gentle as love.
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove
Though she was blind,
Grandma was yet one
More person I
Could not beat at chess.