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.