Dirty Knees

Mid-morning in sultry yesterday, I’m beneath the deck nailing a chicken fence on one end to keep my daughter’s chickens from venturing toward the neighbors. I’m thinking of my folded-up laptop on the table on the deck above my head and of the woman I just interviewed, how I want to write just 500 words before I’m at the middle school again, picking up my daughter. At the same time, I’m thinking of a house insurance bill.

Her golden chicken appears beside me and clucks softly, as if asking a question. Then I just stop for a moment and ask the chicken, hey, what’s up? I remember when my father, decades ago, put on his oldest clothes and crawled in the narrow space beneath our house, cleaning up the droppings from our beloved cat.

I hammer that fence together — maybe it’ll hold for a day or a year — toss the chicken a crust leftover from my daughter’s breakfast as she rushed to school, and then I write those 500 words.

Black gloves
I threw into a field
rise up again —
yellow flowers blooming
from their fingers.

— Fumi Saitō in A Long Rainy Season

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By Brett Ann Stanciu

Brett Ann Stanciu lives with her two daughters in Hardwick, Vermont. Her creative nonfiction book, Unstitched: My Journey to Understand Opioid Addiction and How People and Communities Can Heal, will be published by Steerforth Press in September 2021. Her novel about rural life in Vermont, Hidden View, was published in 2015.

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