My father lived in a dirty dish mausoleum, watching a portable black-and-white television, reading the Encyclopedia Britannica, which he preferred to Modern Fiction. One by one, his schnauzers died of liver disease, except the one that guarded his corpse found holding a tumbler of Bushmills. "Dead is dead," he would say, an anti-preacher. I took a plaid shirt from the bedroom closet and some motor oil—my inheritance. Once, I saw him weep in a courtroom— neglected, needing nursing—this man who never showed me much affection but gave me a knack for solitude, which has been mostly useful.
Reprinted from Blackbird and Wolf © 2007 by Henri Cole, by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Learn more about FSG poets at fsgpoetry.com.