“a story/ is shadow cast”
It’s a way to begin again,
when The Three Bears become more real
because I’m reticent to know or admit
the human lattice is as unstable
as my downstairs neighbor who is a criminal,
the kind who sees people as bugs he will
pull the legs off, one by one.
Nowhere in him can I find
unpolluted water. No story here,
he has famine of the heart.
Is when I want to phase out that address,
but I know—unwillingly—
even the peasant stock I spring from
wore no gaudy bonnets. To them,
floral was not a concept.
Speak of bugs, they may have
eaten them. I read the story
of burying the family’s youngest girl
under the new threshold, prayer
for protection from famine—sure to come.
Did the mother love that girl? Did she think,
“The hungry gods must be fed”?
Did she cut her own arm,
add her blood to the hole?
“Time that one seizes
and takes along with one is running through the holes”
Shave off the feathers, stop wishing
for an innocent barroom. There’ll always
be your youth, a permanent adjective.
Think of all the words you’ve misspelled
and now you’ve reverted to inverting
letters. The letters you wrote to
servicemen who carelessly left them
in the barracks when they went
into the jungles to sip the cup
of death. Your seventeen-year-old
ignorance, thinking yourself benevolent
and ravishing. You knew nothing of
humidity, fear, stinking sweat and
necessary, murderous rage.
You got off easy with your dancing,
with your jukebox interpretations.
All you really had then, all you really have now,
is your ability, in still moments,
to step back from the rim and ruminate,
to realize your dance is but a hunched shuffle
that transports you as far back as forward.
Grace Marie Grafton’s book of “unruly” sonnets, Whimsey, Reticence and Laud, is due in Spring 2012 from Poetic Matrix Press. Her book of prose poems, Other Clues, 2010, was published by Latitude Press. A chapbook, Chrysanthemum Oratorio, 2010, is available from Dancing Girl Press.
Her poetry has won first prize in the Soul Making contest (PEN women, San Francisco) and the annual Bellingham Review contest and was twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Poems have recently appeared in Glass, Prism Review, Ambush Review, and The Toucan Online.