The time the dog slaughtered the raccoon
on our back porch and tore it to pieces,
my father knew he would be the one to clean
up the mess. He didn’t hesitate, not entirely.
He fetched the supplies – the broom, the bucket,
the roll of paper towel. He fetched the Bon Ami,
which we children always viewed tenderly
simply because of its name, and when we woke
up for school, he was on his knees scrubbing
the last scraps of blood away. To measure love
by what it does is a lesson I am still learning.
My father sat still after a long time, on the back
stoop where the swallows came and went,
under the eaves, and the chestnut tree with its
long candle-like blossoms.
Sheila Black is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Radium Dream from Salmon Poetry, Ireland. Poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, Kenyon Review Online, Ploughshares, The New York Times, and elsewhere. She is a co-editor of Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability (Cinco Puntos Press, 2011), and co-founder and current Executive Director of Zoeglossia, a non-profit to build community for poets with disabilities.