TWO POEMS by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

/ / Issue 6, Poetry

                                               DEAR AMERICA

I pick you up
& you are a child made of longing
clasped to my neck. Iridescent,
lovely, your inestimable tantrums,
I carry you back & forth
from the underworlds
where your giggles echo,
grow into howls.

Your alphabet wraps itself
like a tourniquet
around my tongue.

Speak now, the static says.
A half-dressed woman named Truth
tells me she is a radio.

I’m going to ignore happiness
& victory.
I’m going to undo myself
with music.

I pick you up
& the naked trees lean
into the ocean where you arrived,
shaking chains & freedom
from your head.

No metaphor would pull you
out of your cage.

Light keens for the dead.
& I’m troubled
by my own blind touch.

Did the ocean release
my neck? Did the opal waves
blow our cries to shore?

You don’t feel anything
in the middle of the night.



                                         for J.H.

Alone with snowfall & pockets
of silence beneath shining streetlamps,
I pull her coat closer, finding spaces
in its arms. These seams do not belong
to me. And I won’t know this yet –
slipping down snowy Remsen. I stop
on the promenade, I’m solitary again
& stare at the city edging
the East River. Air blowing stings,
stinging, I pull the hood down,
burrow inside her wordless
flesh. Alive from dancing
with friends, & the music
of that. Pulled over me
like an eyelid of glitter.
As much as Manhattan
glares, can its insect
windows make me out
here on the other side?
Gatsby’s green heart
of a wish. Or whatever
was above me
that looked at my mouth
& said, Yes, it’s enough, isn’t it?
Blinking, immeasurable
in snow that needles
like fire, I’ll walk,
a Siamese with ten shadows,
amongst dense brownstones.
Heart, what telescope do you inscribe?
Snow light growing the shadows
of sycamores & fire hydrants
into giants. The bare pine seller
stands. The streetlights change
for nothing. When I get to my door
I’ll reach for a key
that opens & returns me
to myself like a rune. Then I see
I’m wearing a coat
that isn’t mine. Her syllables
& smiles & the wit of another
woman’s neck lingering
in the lining. Sweetness
& irony & how you couldn’t
tell, in the dark, you could wear
something so intimate
& otherwise? Hearing her
hands & breasts & ribs
murmur inside of the down.
The feathers you now
warm with your own
body. Inseparable
as the music we shared
as we danced,
the holiday like flecks
of tinsel caught under
the god’s tongue. Julie,
I hope you’ll forgive
me for wanting to
verse your instrument,
& how, when Brooklyn
wasn’t looking, I made
angels against the air,
our skin, like words slipped back
beyond midnight & knowing
I have no other way
to bear my life, you
laugh at the café
where we meet
& tell me
when we give
our coats back
with wonder
for ourselves
that the dance
was so lovely
your legs hurt
in the morning.


Issue 6 Contents                                       NEXT: Stack of Brightness by Rosalynde Vas Dias