You've got it all wrong, Mother,
flaunting your grief,
stripping the sycamore
down to a ghost tree.
We revel in skeletons,
find the clean lines
sensuous and economical.
The dead sing us songs
I'm learning to answer.
I'm learning new words
a word you can suck on:
pom—thick and round, a bittersweet
bulge, e—the one you slide over
to get to gran—a slow swelling,
cancer or the rose, it doesn't matter,
then granate—a stone stopping
you hard and cold.
Pomegranate—a word you spit out,
the snick of seeds
against your teeth.
I remember planting, the small furrows.
And the coat of rabbit pelts
you wore. When I was small,
I'd sit beside you and blow into the fur.
I remember dusk
stitching the tulips shut
and throngs of azaleas,
their white throats
open to the moon.
I remember the peach
spattered with red,
furred yellow sun,
and all that juice
let loose on my tongue,
and the pit, its secret
bloody mouth at the center.
I want to learn the language of return.
Re is a reel pulling me back,
the hook in the mouth,
the bud on the rose. Turn
is the worm biting,
smooth swell of the belly,
the detour that brings us home.
I want the ice to melt,
the slow dripping that feels like loss
and is a loosening, a letting go.
The sluggish floes will crack and heave,
the river stretch like a snake in the sun.
Then the floods of summer, the dense
green banks, the sun pumping
juice through the peach, the earth
furred with a pelt of grain.
That dance you taught us—
I'll learn its language in my body:
lift and flail to beat the grain
from the husk, remembering to save
some to return to you, remembering
that I will return here, a seed.
About the Author: Nan Fry's collection of poetry, Relearning the Dark, won the Washington Writers' Publishing House competition in 1991. Her work has also appeared on posters in the transit systems of Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland, as part of the Poetry Society of America's Poetry in Motion® Program; in magazines and journals such as Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Poet Lore, and The Wallace Stevens Journal; in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror annual, and in the anthologies The Faery Reel and Poetry in Motion from Coast to Coast. She lives in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C.
Copyright © 1991 by Nan Fry. The poem first appeared in Relearning the Dark (Washington Writers' Publishing House, 1991) and in Life on the Line: Selections on Words and Healing, edited by Sue B. Walker and Rosaly D. Roffman (Negative Capability Press, 1992). It may not be reproduced in any form without the author's express written permission.