Todd Dillard

Love You Baby 

"There's 60 buzzards in the yard" 
gathered around a shattered deer 
discarded by some charging Ram. 

“It's been like this for days”
Dad texts, dark omens 
crenulating his roof, 

shitting on his car, on his porch, 
their caws rattling like church bells 
struck with bike chains.

Every couple hours he fires 
BBs at his chimney, his fence, 
over his black Ford Flex

and like God's flung beer bottles 
the wake of buzzards splinters and  
regathers when my father goes back in. 

"Look what you miss living 
across the country!" he writes, 
then his only goodbye: "Love you baby." 

Days later I text back
a video of my son’s first steps--
“running away from me” / “look at him go!” 

A week after Dad texts a photo:
a tuft of rusted grass. In its center 
a long, yellow bone.


"Polishing with a deer bone is a proven method to keep cordovan, oil-tanned and wax calf shoes, and boots clean and smooth."
- Kirby Allison

Fog fills the city like a lost dog's howl. 
All the chitchat at your funeral is dead
goldfish being flushed. For the sermon,

the preacher goes on about ice,
how it encases an apple, the apple rots 
onto the orchard floor, leaving a shining sphere 

dangling on the bough. Months later, 
I discover I have forgotten 
how to want things. I buy 

the most beautiful leather boots, 
strip their oil with saddle soap, 
rag polish onto the toes until 

it glosses into a mirror sheen. 
It's fine how the reflection staring up at me 
isn't mine but yours. 

What good boots my grief makes. 
I wear you everywhere I go. 
When memory wrinkles, I apply bone.

From the author: Love, grief–it’s all part of the work we to do live. And no matter how much we enjoy this life, the work of living will work every one of us to the bone.

Todd Dillard’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including Waxwing, Sixth Finch, The Adroit Journal, Fairy Tale Review, and Guernica. His debut collection Ways We Vanish was a finalist for the 2021 Balcones Poetry Prize. He lives outside Philadelphia with his wife and two children, and is a Poetry Editor for The Boiler Journal.