I dug a grave for my dog
with my father when I ran
the same hundred-degree
fever as that Texas noon.
I had taken sips of ginger ale,
just enough for cool drops to seep
into my tongue when Clover’s back arched
her shepherd body drawn taut
like a bow, jaw locked, all open,
teeth bared a sickened snarl, fangs
snagging air, muscles convulsing
tighter and tighter until her back
might crack. And then it did,
a single snap of vertebrae
to end the seizure. We wrapped her
in a blanket, her black fur tufting
through threadbare holes, and carried
her into the backyard, where
my father and I started to dig,
shovel by shovel, my head
thrumming dull like the sound
of each discarded spade of sand.
He never offered to do this
alone. It was expected for me
to work with my father, even
when it meant clenching teeth
through stomach pains, gripping
a shovel tighter than my blisters
could handle to finish the raising
and burying of a life. Even when
I vomited ginger ale
he told me to bury that too.
Troy Varvel is from Nacogdoches, TX, where he earned a BFA and MA in creative writing and English from Stephen F. Austin State University. Currently, he is a MFA candidate Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, where he is an assistant editor at Crab Orchard Review. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Cape Rock: Poetry, Cigar City Poetry Journal, Constellations, Driftwood Press, Psaltery and Lyre, and That Literary Review, among others.