Like any good grandson, I follow
traditions your kids were too rebellious to learn. Your
hands were mottled with calluses and
your forearms had the muscle of farm life buried
under sheets of white hair. You seemed to me a god when you
kneaded sticky dough into stone countertops
to turn flour and yeast
and yolk and salt
to bread. I seemed to be some misread Chronos
when I devoured those
sibling braided loaves this year. It seems to me
your flesh is in that recipe. Your essence preserved
in flour and crisco
and tepid water and poppy seeds
and I with jaws like railroad tracks and
teeth like headstones, like margarine
swallow your bones
to remember.
Like any good grandson, I sleep
in the bed she watched you die in and
never ask which side was yours. Your pillows are flat and hurt my
neck like thumbtacks and bullet holes. The statue of you
in the ceiling is dusty and
stained with scotch and pond scum.
I don’t cry when I see it but my eyes do leak tractor oil when I remember                how
my feet used to fit on top of yours as they pushed the pedals.
How your lap got too small to be a seat. How the ashes
from your fireplace smell like how I wasn’t there to spread yours.
Like any good grandson, I take the memories and armchairs and
don’t ask for more. I reek of sympathy and
gratitude for the time we had and
don’t taste like ivy at all. I don’t say how I dreamed you
came back as a secret I couldn’t keep, then
left again but this time I knew
we are one part sugar, two parts flour, one part sea foam, one part                          peppermint,
two parts maize, three parts firewood, one part grape juice, two parts rhubarb
and we
will swim together again.

From Poems from the 2023 National Student Poets © 2023 Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. Used with the permission of the publisher.