When We Are Clay Again

You were a creature of the highway, a growling ghost with a rib cage visible underneath a thin layer of Tennessee clay-covered fur. You were never mean, but at first you had the ferocity of a buzzing hornet, too afraid to stay in one place. When Grandfather found you by the side of the road, I remember your wild eyes and the blustering yips. The space between your claws was webbed and freckled. A tongue, rubbery and long as my hand, lolled to one side and when I reached for it, grandfather snapped, “Don’t be a damn fool. That ain’t no toy. That’s a Canis lupus familiaris.” I didn’t know what that meant, but I had seen Grandfather’s study, seen his trays full of brittle-winged insects with tiny yellowed pieces of paper underneath them: Actias luna, Danaus plexippus, Eumorpha achemon.

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Jolene Barto is a graduate from Murray State University’s MFA program, and currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, fur-laden dog, and apathetic cat. Her work can be found in
New Madrid Journal, Collage Magazine, and Foundling Review.

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