Ever wonder how journal editors make decisions about work to feature? The Take gives you a glimpse behind the scenes at Mud Season Review. Here, we feature one single poem or flash fiction piece that caught the attention of the editorial team, apart from the signature poetry portfolio or fiction piece in our bi-monthly issues. We hear from the author about the inspiration for his or her work, and we hear from a co-editor about why the poem or flash fiction story stood out.
My selfish grief
I. The rushing swallow sound of the toilet and hiss of the sink preceded your entrance into the room. I’m not sure my face, but it was so that your molasses eyes widened, fixated on me, and you asked, what’s wrong? Just moments before, you were straddling me, our eyes closed, and pushing our lips together with the fatigued passion post-night out. You said you had to pee. In the time it took you to push your pants past legs you apologized for because you hadn’t shaved that past week, and while you sat and peed, and I sat on the stiff couch stuffed with fists, my uncle died. A message received on my phone, and so you asked, what’s wrong? II. Throat clogged, mouth slung I couldn’t spread this news, couldn’t give it more than rumor strength. Eyes closed, I squeezed until the pitch behind my lids swirled with rainbow splotches like gasoline on blacktop. The body is about eighty per cent water, and with all those fluids, I couldn’t wring any from my eyes. You held my head to your chest, my beard like Velcro to your sweater, clinging to you as I was clinging to you. Dry lashes, tear track free cheeks hidden, did I need to be there? Was this a “funny” party anecdote that ends in silence? I gulped air and shoved breath out, a stage performance lacking heart. Weren’t you worried your woolen front was free of saltwater drops, slug trail snot? Did you think me a sociopath? No, of course not. I have dogs and yawn when you yawn. Yet arid-eyed I stayed. III. I couldn’t make wake or funeral so he stayed a possibility. At the grocery store’s floral section, I nosed up to the silky white cups, of the calla lilies, picturing kneeling by his casket peering at the body, features rawboned, waxen. His death display proving the event, but what of my proof and grief? No, hair woven pendant, touring the body city to city. One night only instead, miss it and he’s still out there absconded with my tar-like grief jarred, preserved, and me without that sticky covering, takes ages to clean it off you grief. So I pictured him smaller than memories. Before, when smaller me could see up his nose, perturbed by the amount of nose hairs, his nostrils with shag carpeting. He’d angle his head, look at me, and smile full toothed with tar stains edging his teeth. He’d given me a practice chanter to help me learn the bagpipes. I held dark wood with fingertips delicate- like and blew. The reeds inside didn’t move for all my breath, my lungs shriveled, my cheeks like they’d tear from my face, fly away like fleshy kites. Keep going, your lungs will get stronger, he said. This was before his heart went digital. I grew, and he diminished. Chemo devoured his muscles instead of keeping him here. Age stooped him. All his suits became ill-fitting like a boy in his father’s clothes. In the casket he would be nestled in the ornate fabric. That blesséd Hibernian. The bouquets at the grocery store are mostly baby’s breath, a filler, and the carnations’ tissue paper petals, crimson edges, drooping, and drowning, and too long on the shelf.
From the Author
This is something of an incomplete elegy. It doesn’t come full circle and remains open. It would be a lie to say that grief continues until it reaches where it started and completes closure. The drawing hand’s arc is too wide, creating instead a spiral moving outward from the beginning. No matter how far the pen’s nib moves from the center, it will never connect.
From the Editors
Griffin plummets readers into the experience of death-at-a-distance—shock, having to pee, and a beard against a partner’s sweater. Grief’s scope is far-ranging yet centered in such quotidian details. Section III asks the hardest question: how to adjust to absence when the deceased “stay(s) a possibility.” And ending with the grocery store flowers quietly crumples a heart.