Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
The Dog in the Desert

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Because my daughter has a Heritage
Project for sixth grade,
because she must not only
ask a relative about ancestors and immigration, but also
tug at dusty memories of childhood
friends, first job, first love, worst loss,

because my father is eighty-six,
because he has always
been silent, has never known how
to speak to his children, or to anyone,
of the life he has lived,
because I resist
his impatient unwillingness, convince him he can
find his way through all these questions
with his granddaughter, for
his granddaughter,

because she is a delicate wisp of a thing
who does not trouble him
with excess energy, or childlike volumes of voice,
because he likes her liking of mathematics, and she listens
while he explains principles and properties
that no one else he knows would even want
to know,

because of all of this,
my father sits one Sunday with my daughter
at his antique kitchen table,
and I learn, from her
lips instead of his,
that when he was a boy, my father
had a dog.

So what? he says, when I go to him and ask. It's just
a minor, distant fact.

But in a desert, any
moving thing can draw the eye
toward tender, startled
wonder.


Jennifer L. Freed’s work has appeared in Poetry East, Atlanta Review, Brain, Child, Common Ground Review, and other publications. Her chapbook, These Hands Still Holding, was a finalist in the 2013 New Women’s Voices contest. When not mothering or writing, she teaches creative writing and tutors ESL, and wishes she had time to read as much as her daughters do.


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