The dog’s full name was Margaret Thatcher. My mom is a little warped.
The Qualities of Iron
The bitch was a crone when I best knew her;
stub teeth mostly gone, her jowls black,
her wolfhound’s face had run to scabs
and there were blood gorged fleas nesting
in her mothy pelt. But this was a dog
who only claimed iron’s most positive traits;
tough as tempered nails, she outlived all reasoning.
No amount of pressure could make her bend
from the track of love, or approximation
of loving that she was able to give.
She was beautiful, in the way of metal;
blued and burnished as the flanks
of a bridge. A magnificence refined, indelicate.
She bore the splendour of nurses; in the depths
of Mother’s worst illness the mutt never stirred
from Joy’s writhing side, growling at anyone,
doctors, husband, children, who risked
the approach. She snapped her teeth at us,
and not in greeting, her paws weighing down
my mother’s thrashing arms; Maggie
dragged Joy from fever like moles
from a mine. And never mind if Joy
was happier there, lost in the depths
where the pain could not reach. The dog
bit her master’s wrists, drawing her out.
Like her namesake, she would remain
beyond the time that she was needed.
She slept in my parent’s dark bed for decades,
long after the rest of us graduated or were
removed. She died, unwillingly, at twenty-one.