Empty Garden

By Misty Matesig
It began with metaphors: 
Neruda’s dead dog,
the rusty tones of my teacher braying
“all dogs go to heaven.”
It began with short breaths, mouth agape, 
tiredness creeping up your small bones. 
It began with the car ride where you sat, not searching
the streets, 
but resting your cocoa eyes on my face. 
Your heart swelled two times too large.
Wet and wilting, roots rotting
like a drowning Quaker lady,
your leaves were wheezing feebly for oxygen. 
Our thumbs weren’t as green as I thought. 
Your terrified eyes grasped for the shiny handles.
“Let’s go home,” you pleaded,
away from plodding fingers and calendars.
But I caressed the soft nook behind your ear and
“You’re a good girl.
I love you,”
until you sailed away like a small dandelion seed. 
That building was a campfire—
it roared feverishly the closer I stood
and let the cold sink on my frame as I lurched away.
When I fled further from that place,
my cheeks grew muddy. 

Frost sleeps on the deck where you once sunned your
brindle belly
and won’t touch her food. 
Though the change will ebb from her periphery
as it seems to happen with most of her kind, 
she searches the furniture, whimpering, 
“I’m looking for her.”
Earth dog, 
you are not on the windowsill, nor
digging holes in the yard, barking at the neighbors, 
stealing baby carrots. 
You’ve left me with an empty garden
and I am still trying to figure out where my colors will
come from now. 
Tonight, my grandfather starts a fire. 
Boxes of tax forms sizzle in the flames. 
I come out in muddy boots
and I burn. 
Scarlett flecks lift from the pit and rest on the wet
earth until I turn, 
growing damp and chilly 
with each step I take towards the house.
Everything still feels like a metaphor.