The Size of Grief
The parade of police cars
out front tipped me off
and the jacket the man wore
leaving the house, coroner
printed across the back
and the rubber gloves
the policemen slipped on
and flexed as if preparing
for surgery. The six cops
laughed nervously, their comments
drifting my way: "Hope it doesn't smell
too bad." Death stinks
and it smelled intensely today,
my 39 year-old neighbor's
remains gathered in a festive
orange body bag, the bulge
of his stomach the size
of a pregnancy that's gone beyond
nine months, arms pressed primly
at his side, toes pointed
The wife? On vacation in Tahoe
with their two young kids, not expecting
a call at 7:30 AM that her husband
had died suddenly, tragically, his heart
unable to carry on. The kids?
Jeremy said it would be the last time
he would go to Tahoe for their yearly
holiday. "I don't want this to happen
again," he said. And Megan? She asks her mum
"Who're you going to sleep with now
that the marriage bed has been tossed,"
a painful reminder of 22 years together.
It's all too much on this glorious
day on the brink of summer, temps
in the high 80s, hardly a breeze.
-- Lily Iona MacKenzie
The Poet to Her Poem
Make of my elbows small pebbles rolling
the river bottom, a fierce and pummeling sweep.
If you will, build of my limbs and trunk
the supple breast and weight of the water.
Of my hands, eels, my ears
twin leeches sucking sound,
already these feet are two swift fish
flicking the shadowed pull of current.
Of eyes and mouth, shape glints and echoes,
sunlight and voices under the bridge.
If you can make of me water’s muscle,
then perhaps you can float:
lay your head where the shoulder of the river rounds,
where the heft of it bends and pools,
hear a river’s shifting joints and taste summer
licked from the lips of a swimmer.
Be sure to tell all the tales—laughter and the drownings—
what I have taken and what I leave behind:
whole lives, wide banks strewn with smooth stones,
the yellow foam of pollen painting the shore.
- Christina Hutchins
From The Stranger Dissolves, Sixteen Rivers Press, 2011.
First appeared in The North American Review.
-- Christina Hutchins