Joe Cottonwood has built or repaired hundreds of houses in his day job as carpenter/contractor in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His books of poetry are Son of a Poet; Foggy Dog, and the recent Random Saints. He is the author of novels for adults (Famous Potatoes, Clear Heart) and for children (Quake!, The San Puerco Trilogy) as well as the handyman memoir 99 Jobs: Blood Sweat and Houses.
We dog and housesat
for a rich family every summer
gathering aunts and uncles to the big stone house
near grassy rolling battlefields
where a hundred years ago
cousins slaughtered cousins.
Cousin Buff was my summer buddy
throwing tennis balls for Cookie
who dropped them slobbery at our bare feet.
One time gently between doggy lips
Cookie brought a crumbling hip bone
and the sheriff said Yeah, poor kid,
because so many were so young
and their bones preserved better
as if they wanted to grow old.
Buff was always two years taller,
liked banjos, laughed at city music,
laughed at me for saying si-reen instead of siren.
Then one summer Buff had a girlfriend
with an actual bosom
and I was still a kid
like pressing my face against glass
as he left my life.
Buff died I learn from a Facebook
photo of an old man I never saw
blaming abortions and gun control
for his cancer and I bet if he met me
we would fight.