“Did you ever have one of those oranges?”
My friend said to me, eyes wide –
emphatic – this was something I was supposed to relate to
“That just dissolve in your mouth, into dust.
That will make you never want to eat oranges again.”
I tried to be like Theodore Roethke and keep a notebook of word-sketches.
Collections of images I’d turn into poems later
like little balls of clay, or glass fragments to mosaic, eventually.
But then I ended up with so many small moments
I captured but couldn’t blend together in a poem. But I collected.
The way Joan Didion’s cold eyes stare at me from a dust jacket. Is beady too mean? Her eyes like onyx beads. Small, and shiny.
What if a cultural anthropologist
found my friends and me soaking our feet in the bathtub
1,000 years from now. “It appears the tribeswomen of the Midwest
would huddle together around lavender foot solvents
from the travelling vendor known as Avon.
The effort needed to scrub the dead skin off their feet
was apparently a form of socially-accepted self-flagellation.”
My writer-friend told me I should write a poem called “I forgive you, Ezra Pound.”
I told her I can’t because the first line is “I can never forgive you.”
and I don’t know where I can go from there if the title is a lie.
Lizzie Borden may or may not have taken a hatchet
to her father forty-one times.
Whoever murdered Mr. Borden hit his cranium so hard
that his eyeball popped out of his skull
and a subsequent hit split his eyeball in half.
I walked through the entire exhibit at her museum
convinced of her guilt. The last group of artifacts
before you’re poured back out onto the tourist-filled
streets of Salem concerns Lizzie’s death.
She wrote out her own funeral instructions.
On it she wrote: “I wish to be laid at my father’s feet.”
They granted Lizzie’s wish to be buried at his feet,
under her real name Lizbeth, not Lizzie.
Theodore Roethke, whose father had a greenhouse,
wrote in his notebook that “by grubbing among stones,
in the close dirt, / I found out where my father left his heart.”
That was a sketch he didn’t turn into a finished poem either.
Even Roethke didn’t write every poem he wanted to.
I see dirt everywhere,
but I’ve never so much as seen a photo of my father.
Not even once staged for extra poignancy
like Joan Didion’s beady-eyed dust jacket.
Does he have beady eyes, too?
I always try to write a poem about that but I can’t.
I don’t feel like the poem is enough.
I can’t break it all into neat lines.
I suppose I could submit it to formal meter
or some language poetry
but it wouldn’t be real because
the signifier wouldn’t be organic.
I’d be deliberately trying to be poetic
making the orange my dad’s love
turning to dust in my mouth.
Tiffany Grayson is a poet, mother, quilter, editor, and proud Midwesterner. She graduated from The University of Northern Iowa where she worked at The North American Review. She later co-edited Blood Lotus. She has work forthcoming in Femmeuary and currently resides in Wisconsin.