Her fingers drag and splay to hold them still. Days before, her horse had died.
Gruesome, she said,
his femur broke jagged through muscle and blood, what comfort her hands
on him now gone;
his body chained and hoisted up, legs dangling like roots or wood chimes.
From her window,
drag marks, white hair she will collect for birds; under one of her nails, dirt—
she has turned
the page to yearlings, a girl in wildflowers; before her, ghost horses running
like geoglyphs, one lifting off.
Everyone hated Chloe, the terrier we bought
to teach you how to love—forget
her messes, the crate door she banged
open and shut, her manic
pull at the leash, her wants and
flaws we took as our own as we did
with you who didn’t yet speak,
your blunt pointer a question, an answer,
command, until five years in
Chloe lunged, teeth-bared
at your small hand—
I lied on the release forms
for someone to take her on trust
as we had, from a breeder
who cross-bred birds where
a peacock screamed on the lawn
and our soon-to-be dog bit
the edging that fenced her in—
so eager we failed to see her
spunk as runt anger the small
cannot live without, but you learned
so when the hamster died, your hand
blew out the back-door glass and
now our cat is dying from old age
or a growth the x-ray can’t detect,
science being less exact than fear
or wonder—his back knobbed as a rosary,
oh pet him, you who chose a hermit
as your patron saint, come to me,
my prayer a lonely abacus—my dog,
I can still hear her howl.
Falling, I have been falling lately, roots
leaf-covered, throw rugs knocking me down, the ground
hard and familiar to my feet, now familiar to my face; pain
purple as sun rise and set, healing blank as a full moon, fractals
hidden. Once I trusted gravity to hold me upright, running
into marriage, the hard measure children take of who you are.
Last week, I held out my arm to a Harris hawk, wings wide as grace
landing to feed. Before falling, earth was a place
to step on. Now it has bled into me branch and feather
flower where death will carry me.
Jane C. Miller’s poetry has appeared in Kestrel, Apple Valley Review, and Summerset Review, among others. A two-time recipient of a DDOA fellowship, Miller is co-author with three other Delaware poets of the collection, Walking the Sunken Boards (Pond Road Press, 2019), and an editor of the online poetry journal, Quartet (www.quartetjournal.com).