We Have This

I need to start again. To ponder how
a year becomes a where, and not a when,
let’s go back, like we from time to time agree
to do, to 1956– I will have you, nail you
down, carve you from a trip around the sun
into a night-edged town where my mother’s
mother lives. Where her daughter’s newly
dead at 7 weeks. 7 weeks! No time to fill
out her fat baby cheeks, no curls adorn that cradle
cap, 12 pounds, 7 weeks, my good, Irish

grandmother speaks: Pardon me, she says
to the Universe, but what do I do, now?

The Universe is dumbstruck, lost, a fat sow stuffed
with sorrow. She could birth for years. The Universe
is a statue of Mary. The Universe cries static tears.
The Universe is her dead son. The Universe is no one.
The Universe makes puns. My mother’s mother will not
let this go. She wants to know– What now? 
The Universe dons its thinking cap. He wants

a nap. Silence is so golden, but my grandmother’s
emboldened–What do I do now? Five syllables
out loud, a consonance of need, five decade
beads. The Universe concedes. We have
this, 
he says, and rolls his sleeves, reveals two tender
wrists. This. This whiskey in the glass. This wine.
These tinny beers. The tonic’s quinine. Lovely sunny bloody
Marys in the morning, hot toddies when your throat
tickles a warning, we have this. We do. I know,

it’s true, however many thousand (I’ve forgot)
years, however countless valid tears, all those sweet
dead dears, and this, this is really mostly all
we’ve got. We have this, 
he tells her, shrunk
to some cheap woman in a ladies clothing shop–
my mother’s mother needs a dress to make
some man’s heart stop, to fix his eyes, to never
mix her up with anyone again, to banish
the word friend from their discourse, and this

dumb bitch hands her this. This cheap rag.
That hag. My grandmother wonders why
she flagged her down at all. She offers up
that flimsy frock once more– goes to flip
the sign on the thumb-smudged door. It’s closing time
in 1956, and we still only have this, this thread
of grief that spins until she has to
don its gown, sit down, pour herself another
drink, and sing to me–

…a poem for your Aunt Marie
who never bounced you on her knee
who never spoke a single sound
whose bare feet never brushed the ground
whose breath went silent in my arms
who never got to wield her charms
these mysteries are strong and deep–

Kyrie Eleison– last night, my son was laughing in his sleep…

 

 

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About evanduyne

I'm assistant professor of writing at Stockton University, where I'm also affiliated faculty in the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program. I work on Sylvia Plath, contingent faculty, and creative writing around trauma and domestic violence.
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