Chef Salad

Barbara rescued an epileptic greyhound

named Chef Salad, who in adolescence

missed the starter pistol at Corpus Christi  

and cost some men their steak and eggs

with Cholula. I liked to help Barbara hide 

phenobarbital in gobs of peanut butter

and let Chef Salad lick her health

from our hands. I liked the parched starfish

Barbara found on the shore and preserved

in isopropyl alcohol because their bleached limbs

stayed fixed in loyalty to long-gone currents.

While my mother and Barbara drank Miller Lite

in canvas beach chairs they talked logistics 

of separation. My sister was blonde at the time.

I can remember how much I grieved her

even then, when the pitiless future had yet to

pour its cold mug of milk and stretch out

by the Duraflame starter log unpeeling

with a few blue wreaths of flame in the grate

of her ribs. But we ate bacon-wrapped shrimp

with buffalo sauce and avoided eye contact.

She watched me play a video game where I manned

ATVs and wrecked them on boreal hills,

or when truly bored drove them aimlessly 

into the binary distance until the rendering failed

and I hit that familiar invisible wall. 

When a storm made its way up from the Carolinas

we put a sweater on Chef Salad and strolled

to the beach so she could run, we said, free

of audience on the darkening sand, but really

so that we could watch the Atlantic break apart.


James Kelly Quigley’s poetry has received a Pushcart Prize nomination, as well as a nomination for Best New Poets. Recent work has been published or is upcoming in Narrative, Nashville Review, Puerto del Sol, Pigeon Pages, The American Journal of Poetry, and other places. He received both a BA and an MFA from New York University, where he taught undergraduate creative writing and served as Copy Editor of Washington Square Review. James was born and raised in New York, and lives in Brooklyn. Find more of his work at jameskellyquigley.com