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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