November 19, 2021
By Tiffany Brenneman
That was the summer I lost you. It stormed the first night.
The next morning, a tree blocked the way to the river.
I let my imagination run, pretended it was a tightrope, sharks
swirling in fast water below, while you worked
a Swiss army pocket knife into the trunk, brushing away wet bark
to spell my name. Later, I followed you up the rope you swore was safe
to a cliff covered in moss, the first wolf I had ever seen panting
at the top. It ran when it saw us, and you did what you always did
when I was afraid, bent low so I could climb on your back,
kneeling again when the sobs stopped. The night you dropped me off,
you handed mom a stack of papers an inch think, kissed her cheek, left her crying,
running her fingers through my hair, checking the back of my neck for ticks.
In a Dream, my Grandmother Treads the Ground of Heaven
in Search of My Dead Grandfather
She travels like a child with a giant’s burdens:
the trailer won’t sell, the car needs new shocks,
the kind neighbor who used to mow the lawn,
passed, and worst of all, the family is still Catholic.
She pulls on the robes of everyone she sees.
Could you tell him I was here, and to send someone please?
In life, he was an artist. He was very kind
but bad with money and didn’t have a lick of talent
for fixing things.
The townspeople were murderers but gentle,
breaking his fall when the rope was cut,
sweeping his eyes and mouth closed with a sheepskin
cloth. They lowered him into the grave dug in the dry bog
the night before, returning after a night of hard rain
to find him half covered in moss and water,
countenance serene as a sleeping boy’s. This is the mystery
that makes my fingers linger on glass in the museum,
not the trail of innocent breath from the body,
feet trembling and then still, but how a person
could look down on his grave and smile, what bird cry
or memory steadied him when they kicked the box
from under his feet.
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