Skip to content
Contact USI

Something Quiet

by Rosalie Moffett

My mother’s dog is buried under a railroad tie
       in the garden
because if there’s not something heavy

       there, something quiet
will come and dig it up. My dog was cremated
       because I wanted to bury him

but where in my rented city yard
       could I? I hope you know
I’m donating my body to science. I’m about as far

       as I can go and be
in the same country as my mother,
       who is almost at the end

of the winding highway connecting the town
       to nowhere:
a hollowed canyon and its black cows, its river

       enameled with whatever
light the time of day is making. As soon as I held
       the dog’s expensive ashes,

I knew it was an absurd question,
       where he’d want to be
scattered—couldn’t walk myself

       through his dog-logic,
his trying to grasp what it mattered what I did
       with his body when he was

no longer in it. Who knows what, then,
       they’ll learn about me,
what a specimen I’ll be. The country is vast.

       I left home, drove away
towing a U-Haul. The world is full
       of beauty, is enormous.

It doesn’t make a bit of difference
       where I put any
of the ones I’ve loved.

In my family, when one of us reached the lonely and miserable patch of adolescence, we were prescribed a dog. I got a border collie. Initially, the dog was there for me when I was being intolerable, when the world was being intolerable, but, among other things, the dog served as training wheels for loving and prioritizing something other than myself. And then, later, I had to learn how to care for him as he grew old and infirm, had to learn to cope with his loss. Part of my grief in his last year was knowing that this was also a kind of training wheels. “Something Quiet” came out of grappling with that lesson.

Rosalie Moffett is the author of Nervous System, winner of the National Poetry Series, chosen by Monica Youn, forthcoming from Ecco press. She is also the author of June in Eden, winner of the Ohio State University Press/The Journal prize. She has been awarded the “Discovery”/Boston Review prize, a Wallace Stegner fellowship in creative writing from Stanford University, and scholarships from the Tin House and Bread Loaf writing workshops. Moffett’s poems and essays have appeared in Tin House, The Believer, FIELD, Narrative, The Kenyon Review, AGNI, Ploughshares, and other magazines, as well as in the anthology Gathered: Contemporary Quaker Poets.