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 
towards heaven.  

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