Because he no longer remembers her name, my mother buys my grandfather a rooster. Because he falls off a dining room chair, my mother tries to lift him, though he’s swinging fists, elbows. She holds him on his knees, tells him: you’ll never hit me again.
He’s like the cock fox-bitten I startled upon while racing rabbits in the yard. The one we swaddled in tarp and soothed with millet, the one whose notes, full of aperture, carried in the wind. We named him True Shepherd for how he purged night after night with his throat, the sound of the bite always clinging. For how I’d hold him, arthritic, warm towel to his spurs. For how his red comb throbbed with his caterwaul, when he should have been dead in the grass.
When my mother forgets to lock the pen, the bird’s still nameless. We will not speak of the body we bury in a grocery bag, the enclosure’s lapsed metal, how my grandfather will fall again on the dining room tile, how he will be confined in pewter to loiter on the mantle, a cache of his body set aside to scatter. We will not speak of the animal maimed and reckless in the sward, just of True Shepherd, how the day never answered, no matter how lushly he called.
Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 16, Issue 3.
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