by Jay Livingston

//                                                                                                                                                       \\
How else do I say it?                                                       I’m helping my grandfather
Our family is gone,                                                         trudge up a hill of mud, dead
in way, or like bridges burned,                                     grass, pools of murky water, the family plot
ash and corpses buried together—                             pelleted by the nuisance rain,            
cards called by their suit.                                               timely storm: day of grandma’s funeral,
No naming faces that aren’t there.                              walking out of the tent covering her casket.

How am I supposed to choose a beginning?              He stops us in a boot-print pond,
pick them apart, pull a string apart                              so I was thinking—and what the others
by its finest thread, and holding it                               must have thought, two grievers
up to a light, fluorescent—                                            muddying up like that, Sunday best—“You
clinical, as if I admire the diagnosis,                            were standing on your daddy’s grave,
a class statistic expressed in flesh.                              you know that?”

How do I clarify this                                                       During the service, he means,
in words that fit it well,                                                  when I stood and everyone else sat,
snug like a purpose,                                                      my hand on his shoulder,
tapered to its truth—no each other;                           my feet covering my father’s name,
the resilient eye looking back,                                      the palm trees etched on either side.
the fair way to go about it.                                            I tell him I didn’t know.

back to University & College Poetry Prizes