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
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.