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Old Dogs

Excerpt from a flash fiction story about difficult family dynamics. 

Published by Had

My father used to tell me that the best way to see an animal is to fall asleep in the woods. If you fall asleep, he said, they will come right up to you.

There is something about a sleeping person, prostrate or in repose, and shorn of their power. They become another kind of being, closer to plant, pulsing but passive. I wonder if this was the only way my father could allow things to come close. I wonder if this was his way of willing something to trust him, to unfear him.

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And There Is A Name For It, Mother

Excerpt from a lyric essay about coming of age, gardens, and the smell of dirt.

Published in a lineated form by Sky Island Journal

Like seed packets saved from springs before me, I am morninged not by a new day, but opened like a thumbprint in soil, in a row, receiving. I follow my mother in quiet wonder, brush back topsoil, water the spaces where she stops, trusting that the seeds remained though they disappeared to my eyes. 

This is the lesson of the garden that stays on my fingers long after we leave. At night, as a child, my hand would sweep summer sweat from my face, when we still lived without air conditioning. Under my nose were brown crescent moons, dirt permanently in my nail beds. At any moment now, if I try, I can hear my mother’s voice. She says the best earth for growing is a dark sweet sponge, like chocolate cake crumbles, humus made by a litter of leaves and the last animal lives: decay that gives us something back. 

Growing up, she fed me on lettuce full of fluorescent green cabbage worms tucked between leaves; beet hummus she made the last color in a sunset; tomatoes every day; zucchini that lived well into the winter, dust still clinging to its itchy skin like the hair on my legs when I attempted to shave for the first time. 

When I learned to cook (quietly and suddenly), I began to smell the vegetables that lined the kitchen counter—a test for dirt, an inhaled indicator of what my mother had washed, or what was unwashed. So many things I’ve pulled from the ground to stand at the sink and scrub: vegetables for a lifetime.

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