My dad buried two dogs in the backyard

Barbara Fant

Bird dogs, they saythe kind that chase something in flight.Try to capture with its teetha winged ceremony,feathers dripping from each of their mouths.The first dog was just plain old.The second died of a heart worm pillmy father neglected to purchase.What else has he let die?My mother fixed his plate every night,never bought a car, or shoes, or skirtwithout his permission.She birthed children and raised them.She, my sister, and Iwinged things in the air.I knew there was blood under the ground.No surprise when I found the house was sinking.Our dogs always stayed outside, not allowedin the living room.Only the basementwhere my father stayed, slept, fixed things.My mother, a silent companion.The dog barks and my father goes running.The dog diesand we bury my mother.Graves for everyone.We barkand feathers fall from my father's teeth.He barks and becomes the tree.The bark remembers phantom nooseand screams.The screech becomes a bulletwithout a window to land through,just a body,a backyard,a shovel.

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Barbara Fant has been writing and performing for over 15 years. She competed in 9 National Poetry Slam competitions, and she is a World Poetry Slam finalist. She is the author of two poetry collections, Paint, Inside Out (2010) and Mouths of Garden (2022). Her work has been featured by Button Poetry and Def Poetry Jam, and has been published in the Academy of American Poets and Electric Literature, amongst others. She has received residencies from Idyllwild Arts in Idyllwild, California and Connect Arts in Havana, Cuba. For over 10 years, she had led healing-informed poetry workshops for both youth and adults who are incarcerated, those in community, adults in recovery, and survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence. She holds a B.A .from Ohio Dominican University, an M.F.A. from Antioch University Los Angeles, and a Master of Theology from the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. She is the founder of the Black Women Rise Poetry Collective and co-founder of The Senghor Project, West African International Artist Residency. Currently, she serves as the Artistic Director for Street Poets, Inc. in Los Angeles, CA.

Cover of the Book, Mouths of Garden

Knoxville, Tennessee

“The delight of Mouths of Garden is the same delight that I find rising up in the poems of Barbara Fant time and time again: the images snap to life before a reader's eyes, the narratives guide you generously, but still keep something for themselves. Everyone that Barbara writes about feels so richly and tenderly rendered. This book builds a world, and then does everyone and everything within the world justice.”
—Hanif Abdurraqib, author of Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes on A Tribe Called Quest

“Barbara Fant’s Mouths of Garden is full of hard-earned wisdom about the world we live in, as beautiful and broken as it is. These are poems of survival but not only survival—no, Fant’s work seeks hope’s high ground despite trauma, or perhaps because of it. We need Mouths of Garden now, right this minute, but we’ll also need to carry this book with us into the future. I’ll be keeping my beloved copy close.”
—Maggie Smith, author of Good Bones

“In this collection, Fant is a shaper-shifter; her voice bends and contorts through time as to never miss a memory or to show us how it gathered all this volume. These poems are a haunting and while I read through them, I was never in doubt that I was being visited upon, asking me to confront not only my understanding of place, but my understanding of legacy and the many iterations it can take. Sometimes Fant is our guide between the ghosts when she says ‘…The boys on the block / wear absent fathers’ faces. / The boys on the block don’t cry.’ And sometimes Fant is a benevolent specter herself, ‘My mother died when I was half of me. / I’ve grown another half / she may never recognize.’ Mouths of Garden is a tremendous traversal through what it means to not only survive, but to celebrate that survival for the triumph it truly is.”
—William Evans, author of Black Nerd Problems

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