Talking to My Dead Mother About Dogs

By Stephanie Gangi

Featured Art: Dog with pups by India, Rajasthan, Ajmer, probably Sawar school

That damn dog.
Which one, Ma?
The first one.
There is no first one, there was always a dog, Ma.
The shepherd, the one who kept the baby
from rolling in to the road down the hill in front of the house.
That was me, Ma. I was the baby.
I know that. Rex. Rex.
And what about your father’s, who jumped
out the car window at a toll booth, headed for the hills. Skippy,
ungrateful mutt.
Then we got Duchess, because of Lassie on television.
Duchess was weak. Duchess didn’t last.
The toy poodle came in a hat box. She matched the décor!
I swear to god, she did.

Your chateau phase.
What about your dogs?
My dogs? My dogs, Ma?
The fear biter who darted in the dark at the ankles of my bad choices?
The herder who swam himself spent, circling me circling me when I was at sea?
The too-happy dog, who I couldn’t keep, I forget why?
Now this one, the big one, this horse of a dog who braces himself
so I can stand? Who, the slower I go, the stronger he gets?
Who can’t rest until I rest? This dog, Ma?
This last one? Ma?

Stephanie Gangi is an award-winning poet, novelist, short story writer and essayist. Her acclaimed debut novel, The Next, was published by St. Martin’s Press. Her second novel, Carry the Dog, is coming from Algonquin Books in 2021. Gangi’s work has appeared in Catapult, LitHub, Hippocrates Poetry Anthology, McSweeney’s, Next Tribe, The Woolfer and is forthcoming from Arts & Letters. Stephanie Gangi lives in New York City, where she at work on her third novel.

Originally published in NOR 18: Fall 2015

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