“It Kept Always Being Sunday” by Benjamin S. Grossberg

Benjamin S. Grossberg


Before my mother died, and after.
I thought of Paul: before Jimmy died, and after.
The narratives of hope grew irksome.
I’m almost fifty, my body well on its way to ruin,
what are a few chemicals more or less?
Pandora, kneeling at the box, having let loose
all the pharmaceuticals.
The experiment that each generation is,
the experiment that each generation is
loosed on the generations before it.
In this new America, we don’t really get old
until just before we’re dead.
How can I write about PrEP without writing about love?
Go back to Romeo and Juliet, go back
to the Greeks, no one can write about love
without writing about dying.
No way but this, etc.
An outboard motor on my Ship of Death.
At what age does having ambition
become something younger people praise you for?
Before my mother died, her concerns
fell away, importance redefining itself in tighter
and tighter circles around her body.
Just a few weeks before her death, she felt
well enough to get a haircut; she wanted a haircut.
All the conventional wisdom told us to find meaning
in the moment. All the advertising told us we could buy it.
Biologically, we just wanted to sleep in piles
with other mammals.
There was a fire. Somewhere far off
a howling from which we felt insufficiently insulated.
When a stone sounded three times against
the cave wall, when smoke from way back
smelled of a pleasant roasting, we came forward
salivating. I told a man I loved him only a month
after we’d stopped speaking, and only by email.
But, I note in my defense, I used to touch him in line
at the supermarket, my hand against his shoulder.
The problem of too little may be a problem
of too much too quickly, like a crowd
trying to get through a door without first forming a line.
The last time I remember eating meat:
A Sunday. I am at a barbecue
with my brother and his friends.
I am twenty-two, I have just come out,
it comes off the grill in strips,
more sauce than meat, and I put it in my mouth.
The tang of tomato sauce and vinegar.
Does everyone here know I am gay yet?
We are all enjoying the meat.

from Rattle #79, Spring 2023


Benjamin S. Grossberg: “More and more these days, I find it hard to write about one thing without writing about everything. In ‘It Kept Always Being Sunday,’ I tried to ride that impulse, rather than resist it. I’ve been writing poems for as long as I can remember, but the first time I was really transported by a poem was hearing a literature professor read ‘Lady Lazarus’ aloud in class.”

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