the animals we forgive

my mother sits at the edge of the open field,
her blue and purple back held up by the broken
fence as the crickets pull the
trickling sound of endings from a lowered
sun. she reads aloud as
the friesian soaks his front hooves
in warm water and epsom salts: the white
hot burn of the thrush swirls
out of his legs and circles the drain.
he takes the softest part of his
nose and gently presses against
my mother’s neck, fogging her glasses,
and the memory of her coming to
on the gravel road, her
spine black from impact, is now laced with
forgiveness. the language we invent to
understand the actions of the creatures we
love bubbles in the trough with the epsom
salts. a future salve.

at the centre of an empty school yard, i take a
chance on a sitting rock. my dog curls
at my feet, his body a mix of remembering and
new lessons. just as much as his still frame sweeps
the field for threats, his chest softens under my
palms. his fear is now peppered with trust. from our
grounded lookout, i am seconds ahead of his
gaze and this is my whole life – the first watch, and the
next, ready to move him from the path of all things his
survival faced first.

chickadees sing in the oaks above
us, and he slowly lifts his head to trace the
sound before pressing his face into my hand, licking
my palm. for all his years on this earth, sudden
kisses are a new offering, a thank you from a thawing
heart. i can hear his guard lower.
i have learned the signs of his red mist- that sharp switch all
animals have. a bicycle crossing their path, a charging
labrador from across the park. there are places inside
those you love they can’t hear you from, an opaque
forgetting when cornered by fear. my fingers brush
the fading teethmarks in my thigh, and i am a field of
empathy. some things are the cost of a healing wider than i’ve known.

when my sister poses for selfies in the rolling
hills of newcastle, the smile in her eyes and the one
on her lips are not the same. she presses a kiss
against his cheek in what we’ve come to learn as their
architecture: her eyes to him, his to the lens. she holds
his youngest child on her shoulders in the next photo as
they wade into the swimming pool. at certain angles, their years together are visible in the skeletal silhouette. her hashtags
beg us to forget the road that led here, and instead
witness every way that gold can be spun. my sister,
the believer in all of the hidden good, swallows the tightrope
between love that is work and
love that is weight. she threads her fingers between his
and extinguishes the bottle that erupted at her feet. the
decibel of her scream. the puncture of whore.

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