Call It Coping, Call It What You Will

In May I stuffed an hourglass
with cotton gauze. June was unremarkable
but for its aching.

By July, I’d grown scars like cigarette paper,
and August made me think
of baptism, a ritual
I’ve never known. It surprised me
to see accordions
still smoking on my forearm.
Grief looks different to everyone, I suppose.

Visiting Bryan at the hospital, I thought
about Vermont, where we could have been instead.
The ski resort was empty and belted
cows stood still.

Once my friend flew off the Alpine slide,
separated from her sled, dragged
the unsupportive vehicle down
the mountain like a painful appendage, incredulous
at the betrayal
and bleeding from the knees.
I dug my sneakers into gravel and waited at the base.

Sometimes now I dream I’m lying,
choked up on the poem in my throat,
with meadow stretched
in all directions, bovine-freckled, smell of grass
and sparkling
in the spacious off-peak season sun.
Traumatic is the memory

that only skin remembers,
but electricity
runs beneath the skin of us all,
even those with histories like ours.

If questions are illusions of cognition, we are experts
in castles of our making.
Remember we climbed high upon the battlement
and jumped
straight down into the library?
Our minds have tricked us into thinking
language can
put chaos into order.

Like a man awoken from a three-month coma.
Like a bleeding woman walking down a mountain.

 

 

 

 

Mara Lee Grayson’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Columbia Journal, CutBank, Nimrod, Poetry Northwest, West Trade Review, and other publications. Her poetry has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. An award-winning scholar of rhetorics of racism and antisemitism, she is the author of two books of nonfiction. She holds an MFA from The City College of New York and a PhD from Columbia University. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, she resides in Southern California and works as an associate professor at California State University, Dominguez Hills.