PORTRAIT WITH FLORA, FAUNA, AND TOOLBOX
If you were not here, I would miss
how you always speak to animals,
that clicking sound
you make with your tongue,
the way you walk five blocks
out of your way to play fetch
with a dog named Whiskey.
If you didn’t live here
the neighborhood cats
would stop visiting our yard.
Everything dangerous would creep closer.
The clutch would go out in the Fiat.
I wouldn’t find the keys to your truck.
I would hear that six-inch crack in the bedroom ceiling
spidering out, the ceiling slowly caving in,
and I am pretty sure I would forget
everything you ever taught me about how,
and when, to use the Channellock pliers,
or the metric crescent wrench set.
I would miss seeing you outside in the yard,
those times when you don’t know I’m watching,
the shades of chambray and khaki,
the silver lightening your beard,
you resuscitating the neighbor’s dying fig tree
using only a garden hose,
the way you know that even an old tree
still wants to bear fruit,
the way you harvest wild pepper grass
from vacant lots,
that time you presented me with a French
pocketknife for my birthday,
the night you showed me how urban racoons
make themselves at home
in the storm drains,
or the morning you freed an opossum
who fell into the garbage can.
But most of all, it was the day you came home
carrying your heaviest toolbox in one hand
and a cluster of rain lilies in the other.
Gabrielle Langley’s first book of poetry, Azaleas on Fire, was released in 2019. She has wonseveral prizes and awards for her work, includingthe Lorene Pouncey Award, Houston Poetry Fest’s Jury Prize, and the Vivian Nellis Memorial Prize. With work appearing in a variety of literary journals, and three Pushcart prize nominations, Ms. Langley was also a spearhead and co-editor for the anthology Red Sky: Poetry on the global epidemic of violence against women (Sable Books – 2016). www.gabriellelangley.com.