When I see a dead animal
on the side of the road
and dig my nails into my palms.
Its grainy eye is so different
from the blue-gray dip of iris that floated
beneath my father’s lid.
We used to sail
when the breeze was like this, thick
And the genny would billow,
and the boat would tip,
and he would steer the tiller with his bare brown foot.
The rabbit lies with front legs crossed, moss
covering its extended back paws.
My father died beneath a light sheet,
plain and white.
Did it Call to Mind the Dead in Your Life, Too?
Dead rabbits do not stay long in neighborhoods with names like Pinecrest Acres. But the raccoon, the one we saw in the curve of Stewartstown Road–writhing, clawing, alive, red-splayed–that raccoon is flat now, no longer once alive, lobbed back and forth across the yellow line, a tufted dead thing. You told me about flowers that smell like rotting flesh, and I said, “Have you ever smelled rotting flesh?” And you said, “I’ve smelled roadkill.” I look at my stale pine tree air freshener. I do not want to inhale carrion when that grinning raccoon raises its paws to my car.
I have yet to achieve a streak-free shine.
My face in this mirror smears
into my mother, my grandmother, yet it is mine–
this time, this face, this cloth, these years
these women keeping house, prettying up,
making home. Still, the oatmeal I make
is not like theirs, thicker somehow, no lumps
of brown sugar dissolving in. When I bake
I use Sugar Twin. And the dust I sweep
from my bookshelf never quite vanishes,
the toilet bowl ringed though I clean
every Sunday in holy attempt at banishment.
Yet the sacred is here, in this pitcher of iced tea,
my love, like theirs, served with soup and grilled cheese.
Heather Frese is from Ohio. She is currently pursuing her MFA at West Virginia University. Her work is forthcoming in The Michigan Review and the Los Angeles Review, The New York Quarterly and Fiction Weekly.
“I remember sitting on the front porch swing with my grandmother, eating Neapolitan ice cream and poking our feet through the slats of the railing with each forward sway.”