Spring 2020, Volume 28

Poetry by Peter Grandbois

Drowning

The spirit lives between
one name and another

Between the silences we let slip          
and the tiny aches we hold onto

Between the head tilted back
and the mouth left open to rain

This morning I woke under the kitchen table
looking for my shadow

I mean my dog, Shadow

I mopped the floor where he spent his last night
Then tried to vacuum the stray hairs

As if death was a place you could clean

As if we weren’t all, always, waiting
for our next face

To come true

But the floor wouldn’t dry
So the hairs stuck to the wall, the vacuum,
everything

Let us walk to the river and find a new
god

one with slippery green skin
to let the water in

[Sometimes we are so close]

Sometimes we are so close
                               to the god-throat
                               of nothing

The sky empties us
                               and we enter the room
                               left behind

Roam the blue absence
                               between tell me another lie
                               and don’t speak

If you look deep enough
                               even darkness
                               has a shadow

Watch the way it threads itself
                               through secrets
                               and stone,
                                   
Connecting every sleeper
                               to another
                               ocean

The water laps against the sand
                               and we open
                               into many

[Iím convinced Iím never awake]

 “I have had a terrible night—such a one as I believe I may say God knows no man ever had. Dream’d that in a state of the most insupportable misery I look’d through the window of a strange room being all alone, and saw preparations making for my own execution.”—William Cowper (1731-1800)

I’m convinced I’m never awake. How else to explain this dream that sticks like wet leaves to the red tile floor inside the kitchen door? This dream where laughter curls beneath autumn’s heavy rain, the horizon at dusk lowers itself to let in more than one name, and I rise each day invented by a shiny new accident that looks and sounds in every way like something I have lived before and will again: I have a family, I have been in a family, I have a father, I have been a father, I have a son, I have been a son. And each and every one is complicit in choosing a mouth that fails to warn us that the man lying in bed who can’t sleep and the boy lying in bed who can’t wake are the same. The verdict guilty. Ready. Take aim.

There is no boundary that holds

These mornings I wake
to an I uprooted

by memory, an upheaval
of voices shambling

toward the merest insinuation
of a life

that is not  a variation
on the overwhelming music

of childhood.

Nothing
is ever really lost

but must be spoken
in measured drops

of light

that wash away
our imagined

emptiness: the name

we once cried
in the roar and crack
of flame, the dark
fire that sustained us.

Through the keyhole

“And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb
through that pattern - it strangles so.” —
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935)

I’m breathing your darkness
my friend,
carrying your silence,

for the time when
you claim each nail
as your own.

But how will I know you
when I see you?

Things change so
in this room
of wounded air

where we wait all day
for news
from a greater world

spending our time
trading one broken object
for another.

And the musky scent of dusk
floats through the keyhole
of our eye
like a confession

and every shadow resembles
a piece of this window
we tear in the world,

and the only thing a wall
understands
is how to break one god
into many.

 

 

 

BIO: Peter Grandbois is the author of ten books, the most recent of which is half-burnt (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019). His poems, stories, and essays have appeared in over one hundred journals. His plays have been performed in St. Louis, Columbus, Los Angeles, and New York. He is the Poetry Editor for Boulevard magazine and teaches at Denison University in Ohio. You can find him at www.petergrandbois.com .