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Poetry

Poetry Issue #73

Bone Content

 

We disagree about the weight

of wonder, how long it takes

a body to disappear.

Your father’s bones

are not boxed in a cave,

not fossilized. One midnight

I said he was gone

and marrow boiled

the pot to stew. I promise

to stay with you

though you forget

this vow half way through

each debate. We disagree

about content, what makes

a soul reinvent itself.

I love the whole you,

the sea captain, the cow,

but don’t know how to say it.

 


Bored Games

I want to tell toymakers the one

with the most money does not always win.

 

Retirement is not the end. At 8 all I wanted

in a board game was a 3-D spinner.

 

I had no clue about rules, missing a turn.

Now I lose sleep putting puzzle pieces

 

together, framing edges first so what’s left

will fit inside. See how I negotiate shade,

 

hopscotch my way down the block. I chase

a plastic bag in hopes of outrunning the wind,

 

ride ocean waves only as a way

to push my body ashore. My doodle

 

is just a sign the meeting is too long,

my tapestry of dinner, art while my husband

 

looks on. Just yesterday I repositioned

the guitar case and heard the strum

 

of what’s left undone, the piano

sitting upright in silent pose against the wall.

 

Hasbro says eight is the youngest age

to play the Game of Life, like they know

 

seven is not ready for the flatness of tire,

or the weight of marriage as a life tile.

 

At what age do I accept the taint of rain,

a prolonged promise of I do. These days

 

I dance to get my money’s worth

out of every reception band, sing to keep

 

from falling asleep. I move my token forward

heavy with the weight of sunrise.


Throwing Sorrow At The Wall

The dog has died in my arms,

and I walk through the house

as if my lover is the one who left

the lights on. The glow of grief,

the burn of lonely skin.

 

No blanket thick enough

to warm a broken heart. The shake

of loss. The nausea and the vertigo.

I sit up all night as if to keep

her indention in the bed.

 

A body of wet clothes hang limp

on a wire rack, beans soak by the stove.

I lick my fingers before

turning the paper page. Let me say

I miss her without intention

 

piling itself on the floor, high

as a stack of unread poems.

Habit is the way I continue to leave

eyeglasses face down

on the nightstand, the way

 

I go out and get another dog.

I check to see Millie’s chest rise,

exhale each time a whisker catches

the air of canine whispers.

I cannot throw sorrow against the wall

 

again and survive its echo.

I cannot stop myself from loving

this dog. This path of joy

rutted with mud, the voice

that keeps asking me to do this.


Daily Rations

I use a metal measuring cup

to feed my dog a diet

 

of portions. Dry kibble spills

into her silver bowl

 

and the sound is movie studio

rain, the way all we create

 

is imitation. This poem,

for example. Word

 

revised after word written.

I fake a sick day, make myself

 

a lunch of processed chicken,

record the storm, and listen.


How The Dead Keep Us Spinning

We are nothing more

than calcium and ash

 

but what we don’t know

is the precise time of birth.

 

Ask your mother if she

were alive. She might describe

 

November wind,

how it aches into places

 

only blood dares to hide.

We might visit the river

 

as it empties itself dank

at the lowest of tide. We might

 

survive. Your mother is earth,

her body the dust that keeps us

 

turning our heads west, each time

the sun sets. Day after day

 

we emerge from bitter night

thanks to the work of the dead,

 

an underground factory

of bones rolling over

 

until you are no longer

in mourning.

 

 

By Beth Williams

Beth Oast Williams is the author of the chapbook Riding Horses in the Harbor (Finishing Line Press, 2020). Her poetry has been accepted for publication in Nimrod, Salamander, Leon Literary Review, SWWIM, One Art, Dialogist, Invisible City and Rattle’s Poets Respond, among others, and nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize.