Good Grief When someone posts on our neighborhood group that she’s downsizing and needs a good home for a dozen pelts of her former pets (some frozen, some laundered) I feel a little lost. What else
have I missed? When did this kick off? Was I wrong to bury Toby and Buddy Dog along the back fence where once they ran, barking at the neighbor’s malamute,
each grave marked with a paver stone the grass creeps over, which I pull by hand lest the mower blade cough up sparks? It’s true. I’d love to pet them both again.
But they crossed the river with coats on and now I have living pets that lounge around my desk like Roman Senators on holiday, well-fed, arguably over-loved,
frequently spoken to in sentences as if a response might follow in perfect Latin. They sleep on the bed, under the bed, beside the bed, my Siamese lick-sanding
my nostrils until I rise and fill her bowl with a morning’s worth of Meow Mix. Our love might last forever, but we won’t. Centuries of scheming have rendered
no footpath around the mighty Styx. And most taxidermy is in decidedly bad taste. So, after grooming their death coats for decades, our neighbor resolves
it’s time to letgo, and that others might dream of stroking the fur of dead pets they never knew. I understand nothing, except that maybe our neighbor is due
a wellness check, and me too. There’s no end to where grief might lead us-- booze, gambling, brushing the dead, keeping them here with us, making a second life of what they leave behind because even a single hair evokes their presence, their breath, their wait at the door before we get home.
-- James Kimbrell’s poems have appeared in anthologies including the Best American Poetry and the Pushcart Prize Anthology. His most recent collection is Smote (2015, Sarabande Books). He serves as Distinguished Research Professor in the creative writing program at Florida State University.