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The Take

The Take: Sean Griffin

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.

 

Sean Griffin

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.

-Malisa Garlieb

 

Malisa Garlieb
By Malisa Garlieb

Malisa Garlieb is editor of poetry for Mud Season Review. Her poems have appeared in Painted Bride Quarterly, Calyx, Tar River Poetry, Rust + Moth, and elsewhere. Handing Out Apples in Eden, her first collection, was published by Wind Ridge Books. She’s also a mother, teacher, healer, and metalsmith.