Tasha Graff's poetry has appeared in such journals as English Journal,
THRUSH Poetry Journal, Rust + Moth, and From the Fishouse. She holds
an MA in English literature and a PhD in public policy. She writes and
teaches high school English on the coast of Maine (USA).
These days of growing older than you ever were
Seeing eyes that echo yours in color, if I recall correctly,
on the face of a stranger in line buying lettuce and triscuits.
If I'd tucked your syntax into a pocket somewhere I might
better remember your laugh. When I look hard enough or
rather just look, I can almost see the sound of your voice.
I can't hear it, not anymore, not always, well, sometimes.
The way you said my name: a susurrous memory hanging
just out of reach, a few arms' lengths away, socially distant,
blue gray. I saw you in a bar once, not long after you died.
Maybe three months. It was January. It was cold. It was
not you. But for thirteen seconds I thought you were there,
walking into LFK, taking off your hat, and my body felt right
again, as if every bone, muscle, organ, vessel, drop of blood
synced into place, a fleeting chorus of alrightness. My mouth
dropped open as if I knew how to accept a communion wafer.
Except I remembered what I forgot and You Not You caught
my stare and our bodies rearranged themselves. He moved
to the end of the bar and sat. My insides churned their way
toward cognizance. It's been a few years now and I don't
remember what it's like to be in a bar. So much has changed.
So much lingers.
My surfer friend tells me there are four types of waves:
Spilling, plunging, collapsing, surging. We are walking
on Crescent Beach on a clear January day, where sky
and sea rise infinite, shell and sand magnified.
Surfers chase the plunging waves, before the crash.
I ask if there is a word for the moment before a wave
crashes. To me, it is like grief. The way beauty and terror
meld, the future looming menacingly even for the second
your breath might ease. I don't tell her this. I just stare
at the waves, thinking of Hokusai's print, that Great Wave
forever hovering in doctor's offices and dorms and even
on a mug in Target next to a sign that reads BLESSED.
In her second summer in America, my grandmother
got a job waitressing in Maine. They brought her
on a bus from New York. She learned to eat lobster
and came to Crescent Beach. I wonder if she dipped
her toes in the water, imagine just how her unswollen
ankles reflected sun. I don't even know if she can swim.
In Between (again)
We are talking about death without talking about death.
Instead, we talk about rivers, the language of water,
the bends and curves, the powerful current, ever-flowing.
My grandmother says rivers can wash away anything.
We invent comfort in this talk of rivers, our fluid discourse,
the tongue of moving water, smoothing rock. Fluencies.
Rivers, my grandmother says, can wash away anything.
I have always lived near rivers: the 'Scog, Saco, Llobregat.
Water smooths rock, runs its tongue over jagged edges.
We both look to water for answers, for calm, for distraction.
She has always lived near rivers: Neckar, Harlem, Hudson.
I want to be sprinkled in a river, she says, meaning, By you.
We both look to water for answers, for calm, for peace
in the bends and curves, the powerful, continuous current.
I will buy you a ticket to Germany, to the Neckar, she says.
We are talking about death. We are talking about her death.
Every night squirrels dig
up the rosemary and basil,
tunneling, leaving dirt piled
on steps and brick and sill.
The skunks burrow the grass
looking for a dinner of grubs.
I thought I saw a rat yesterday.
Please, let it not be a rat.
Every morning I replant,
repush the soil, rewater, try
again. Despite wearing gloves
dirt moves in under my nails.
I place handfuls of rocks
around the roots. Wren watches,
turns her head like a miniature
owl. Her wings are leaves,
browned with sun, flecked
with pollen. She rolls her head
upward to the canopy of the oak.
As if to say Pick your battles.
As if to say You reap what you sow.
As if to say You human you.
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