In This Yard

by Shannon Castleton

Most days I go out and something new
is dead. Yesterday my father's 
last Morgan stud, his cancered privates
already black and maggoty.
Monday I buried a lamb
flung on the trail, four bullets 
through her nipple-pink stomach.

Some deaths we plan: the Irish Setter
who bit through a boy's thin neck
when she missed a stick we threw at her. 
An accident—but they took her anyway.
I held her oily eyes shut.
The vet's fat thumb pushed hard on the needle. 

Some nights I call her, then remember
how still, how silk her ears looked in the dry pit. 

My father’s ears glared white
as crescent moons in his glossed box.
I squeezed a thick lobe between my thumb
and all four fingers. My brothers pretended
not to see, stared at his painted lips and eyelids. 

I always remember he's dead. 
Evenings, I lie flat in the yard, 
beneath the wide cherry tree 
dropping its smooth blossoms.