How many little lives in between my fingernails, how many layers
of sod, of seed? This cold grass is all corpse and it’s only six o’clock

in the evening. At the group home, I’ll spoon green beans and strained peaches
into my grandfather’s mouth, push them back onto his plate when he shoves

them off and snarls– our tug of war. He makes a wrung out rag of his face,
says shit: something new for him, man of manners, man of wonderful

the matchless grace. Tonight, he will threaten to run the car in the garage,
throw himself off a bridge, will ask us to shoot him. He sawed down

a blackened branch in my backyard a week before he writhed and turned
paint roller patterns into the carpet with half his body, half his mind gone

to stroke and white space. I had ignored the rot in the tree until its bark split open
like an evening gown slit up the leg, and its reveal of patina firework patterns

reminded me of a boyfriend I thought I’d stay with forever when I was eighteen.
We would watch the neighbor kids shoot off bottle rockets all night before

we learned to tell ourselves the lies we tell ourselves just to make it to the end
of the day, the huge relief of resting slack on the mattress. When you are stuck

in traffic, when you are stripping lead paint off radiators and ripping living things
out at their roots, do you think of sleep? Some days, the constellations rise then fade

into orange light fog, and it’s then you realize you’ve still got some modest miracle left
in clean sheets. They will be cold and smell faintly of bleach and lemon. You will turn

their soft patterns over to face your body, wrap yourself in a skein of palm fronds
for a number of shadowless hours where everything and nothing falls away.

 
 

AA Jewell

AA JEWELL's work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best New Poets 2016, Colorado Review, Fifth Wednesday, Hayden's Ferry Review, Quarterly West, Quiddity, and Zone 3, among other publications. She lives and teaches in West Michigan.

Latest posts by AA Jewell (see all)

  • Dust - June 13, 2018