My mother’s story about the dog

Memories on colder nights—poetry by Reno poet Gailmarie Pahmeier.

Gailmarie Pahmeier is an English department lecturer and poetry instructor at the University of Nevada, Reno. These poems are excerpted from her collection, The House on Breakaheart Road, published by the University of Nevada Press.
My father, one morning as always,went to lift the aged terrier from her bed.

Her blue-filmed eyes greeted his voice

as he carried her to the kitchen, out the door.

He watched her in the twenty-two inches of damn hard snow, made coffee, wandered again to the window.

He saw her circle the yard, turn toward him.

He thought she saw a bird, perhaps, or simply desired

to climb into the box under the porch

where she curled against herself in warmer weather.

But she quivered, she collapsed,

dragged her body some several inches through snow.

Days later my mother found my father

missing. His coat gone, she feared he’d left

toward the store, and with so many decent men

dying doing simple chores in this cold,

she called his name into the white with heart.

She found him safely bundled, breathing hard

to smooth into a slick mound the snow

above where the dog lay. He rose before her

bringing a handful of snow to her mouth.

She ate from his palm, gathered snow to feed him.

This, she says, is what comes of it, of love.

The Bread Lady, The Bird Lady—

two names the neighborhood kids attached

to the old woman in the grey stone home.

Year long she laced her yard with crumbs,

a place made naturally private by trees.

Spring and summer her grounds were a clear cage,

kind refuge for ravens, jays, sparrows.

Hidden behind shrubs I watched the feeding.

She called them names: Adelia, dear Bill, John.

My grandfather called her Miss Lonely Coot,

said the blue flicker that marred the dark

night at her house was a television:

Only folks she knows are faces in a glass box.

One evening I went with a need to know.

The flicker came from candles in sky-toned

hurricanes. Beneath this light, framed photos,

dozens of them, facts of a life past.

She sat tearing bread into bird-sized bits.

Mary, she addressed the mantel, how lovely

you look tonight. And Bill, he’s come home.

Emily, if hope is the thing with feathers,

memory is the open beak, this seasonal

hunger.