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July 2013, vol 9, no 2

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Glenn G. Coats

Things We Bury Deep

My grandfather was attracted to dogs. He liked to spend time at the kindness kennel where stray dogs were kept. He studied them, ones that lurked in silence, ones that cuddled up in balls behind the fence, and ones that pressed their noses through the chain link and licked his fingers. Sometimes, my grandfather came home with a dog. "Oh my God," my grandmother said, "not another one."

midday barking—
on concrete
no place to curl

It was early and my grandfather had just left in his paint truck. I was helping feed the dogs. The new arrival (a big Doberman) was in a pen by the arboretum. We opened the gate and before we could fill the bowl, the dog knocked my grandmother to the ground.

Neighbors were there in an instant, holding my shoulders, saying your grandmother will be all right as she lay on the asphalt. I rode with her in the ambulance to the Rahway Hospital and waited on the chair where the nurses said I should stay. "She will be fine darling," one of them said, "Now don't you worry."

Grandfather took me to the cafeteria and ordered two bowls of pistachio ice cream. I had never heard of green ice cream. We sat and my grandfather was quiet. His face wet with tears.

winter's end—
on the stray dog
a loose collar

I have spent my life saying that I love dogs and I know that dogs can sense fear. As deep as my fear is buried, Dobermans sense it. They are the only ones that growl in my presence. "I've never heard her do that," a volunteer will say. "Now Tricksy, be nice to the gentleman and he might bring you home."

nighttime traffic
hands on the wheel
flecked with paint