Grandpa steps around brown blooms on the carpet out in the garage. It’s noon and the stench overwhelms. Polly, the gray Labradoodle, lies on her back on a blue foam mattress beside the washer, paws in the air. She suffers from arthritis and low thyroid. She can’t walk. Her kidneys are failing. The washer kicks into the spin-dry cycle.
Grandpa sees himself in Polly. His ailments are piling up too, including a bum ticker and a bone-on-bone hip begging repair. He knows his home and everything in it must pass, but his wish is to live long enough to bury Polly. He imagines kids from two marriages battling each other for fee simple and things he’s slaved a lifetime for.
Polly whines through her nose. It’s the way she cried as a puppy, when Grandpa picked her out of a litter of five. The cry makes her seem young. He long-strokes her back the way he did when he took her home between divorces. “Good girl,” Grandpa says, “you’re my best girl ever.” Polly’s tail rises, taps against the mattress.
She gives me the look, the same one she throws whenever we brush our teeth together late at night at the double sinks. It’s somewhere between tolerance and abject disgust. Disgust because I not only eat meat but wolf it down rare. “Face eater,” she hisses through toothpaste and spit. “Vegan slut,” I mumble. I’m guilty as charged. Face eater. Chewer of tissue, fat, and gristle. Sucker of bone. My kidneys have slaved separating fuel from creature waste. The ghosts of a hundred beasts cling to my intestines. Lambs surface in dreams. These newborns remind me of pups on stilts. They spring through meadows and flowering landscapes, roaming free of anything human.
Kirby Wright was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. He was the 2014 Writer in Residence at the Earthskin Artist Colony in Auckland, New Zealand. His latest book is NOTES ABOVE WATER: Selected Poems.