From arrest to needle, he spoke only gibberish

Three poems by Susan Grace

Old Man and Girl

  • Daybreak, like a peach in August,
  • breakfast at the bar, china and silver — doesn’t matter,
  • he’d drink Louisiana chicory coffee out of an old
  • field boot. Hand-mashed blackberry toast, chewing slowly,
  • watching Ana Sofia on the veranda sweeping,
  • a fickle breeze lifting her hair, letting it break
  • on the shoreline of her shoulders, and her dress, white,
  • rectangular, embroidered flowers, pressed to the back
  • of her legs, the hem flapping at her calves,
  • sweeping and sometimes stopping, sweeping and stopping,
  • shifting the broom to one hand, the other floating up to her brow,
  • looking at the day, at the cornfield, and he looks too.
  • What does she see? he wonders. Strong green rows
  • or acres and acres of dead stalks that lay like fallen soldiers?
  • And what does she hear? He sees her hear something
  • when she raises that hand to her brow, tilts her head.
  • The voice of God? Or the wind rattling dead leaves?
  • There is a kind of grief in wind-blown leaves,
  • in rain after harvest.

Two Words

  • In secret weekend negotiations held at La Bastide de Moustiers —
  • favorite house in Provence of world-famous,
  • 21 Michelin stars chef Alain Ducasse — five CEOs
  • of the largest investment banks in America,
  • two Federal Reserve Bank presidents,
  • a top-tier US Treasury Department official,
  • and four Congressmen, both parties, well-entrenched,
  • came together to finalize the Plan and left the inn
  • only for the occasional stroll through the ten-acre gardens.
  • Not only did their whereabouts shock Americans,
  • but their near-simultaneous deaths 32,000 feet
  • above the Atlantic culminated in a death-penalty verdict
  • for the carpenter who — five years unemployed and utterly mad
  • when offered the job of mushroom slicer for that clandestine gathering,
  • hired by Ducasse himself as a favor to a friend’s
  • American cousin — surreptitiously replaced matsutake mushrooms
  • with the slow-acting, highly-toxic amanitas.
  • From arrest to needle, he spoke only gibberish
  • peppered with two words —
  • you’re welcome.

Anniversary

  • Words swim through shallows while a salmon
  • in butcher paper sails through the air, thuds,
  • slides across tile, collides with lemon, ginger root, shoots
  • them past the knife and wine goblet, past spring peas,
  • new potatoes, all the way to the edge — over,
  • lost in the shadows cast from the center island,
  • lit by the window framing the lake that blackens with the setting sun.
  • The tip of her finger — nail painted pink, like labia, areola,
  • like salmon — slides into a fold, tears open the wrap, pulls out
  • the fish, its glassy eye fixed forever up, trained now
  • on the bottle of  Sauvignon Blanc meant for the glaze, empty,
  • the last poured into the goblet, raised, her own eyes glassy
  • peer over the rim, to the thin white gash on the skin
  • of the lake cut by a sliver-sharp moon as his hour-ago
  • words glide by again, swim deeper still, leave
  • ever-widening ripples in their wake.

Susan Grace is an associate editor with the lit-cultural journal Fiction International. She has published in Autre Magazine and is pursuing her MFA in fiction at San Diego State University.

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