September 4, 2013
Let me belong to something lost
or forgotten. This could be all wrong
but the abstractions are real as the bathroom
tiles I press my palms to, the silver
sleeping in drawers.
Is it necessary to be forsaken to love?
Necessary to forsake to come whole?
I keep thinking, I want to go back, take
me back, but where? And to whom?
You see, I am searching for more
parameters, neglected spaces that
can belong to me, hold me in, hold
me. Lately, when you are gone, I touch
the many things in our home that never
get touched: the base of a lamp, socks
balled beneath the bed, a corner
where cobwebs loosen in vent-air—
their slow sashay into light.
I dropped out of college to learn the etiquette
of dying. This was years ago, when Grandfather
could still recite Shakespeare’s sonnets and sometimes piss
in the toilet. I was the custodian of his graying
body—wrangling with toenails thick as almonds,
swabbing the corners of his mouth for toothpaste,
the everyday grapple of heel into shoe. I am thinking
of an October afternoon, perhaps one
that seems the last, just a few shaky leaves
flagging from branches. Grandfather sleeps
in his chair, head back, jaw unhinged: I wait
for this. What I suffered from then was hunger,
and dreams blur when you need
so deeply—they are nothing but color,
pinks and reds, roiling like blood
in water. I ball beneath a blanket and doze,
the dream’s flesh stretching, a scape,
but this time with two birds, dead, wire
bones scratching across red sky. I awake
to Grandfather staring out the window, bored.
There is no dignity in death, his or mine.
A leaf lazes to the ground. Grandfather scratches
the back of his hand.
[editor's favorites, 2013]
Elizabeth Bohnhorst is a teaching fellow at Georgia College and assistant poetry editor of Arts & Letters. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Pinch, The Dunes Review, Cutthroat, Found Michigan, and Trop.