“Shards, Storms, Smoke, and Sprouts” by Jim Gustafson

Jim Gustafson


My asshole son-in-law is in prison now.
He beat my daughter almost to death
on a Tuesday night in July. The sheriffs crashed in
through the slider. The hurricane glass shattered
into shards. They saved her from the fucker’s hammer.
The next day, I swept up the glass, before a thunder
storm moved in and scared my dog. She didn’t leave
my side, stuck to me. She thinks I am safe.
My dog’s beside the point. Guilt does not spread; stays
in clots, rises up in the thunderstorms to scare my dog.
While I swept the glass, I thought about my dad
who died years ago, a week before Christmas.
I never heard him call me “Pal” again. His voice,
stuccoed in old smoke, whispered last in the quiet
that comes after ashes are tossed away at sea.
His words came seasoned with scotch and tobacco.
His shirt pocket always held a half empty pack
of Kents, white with late-night-blue letters
and a small gold crown, a hint at something regal.
So much of this is beside the point, misplaced
like my daughter’s Frangipani Mother’s Day gift.
She was broke, so she snipped a single branch
from her neighbor’s yard, tied a pink bow around it,
and gave it to her mother. I stuck it deep down
in a random spot in the garden’s ground and thought
about the impossibility of second comings.

Roots cut their way through in fresh soil—
that is to say, soft dirt mixed with garbage
left to compost in the heat and rain.
Rain came again last night, this time in spurts
rumbling between the silences like Cheyne-
Stokes breath, when all things stop
the way my mother’s stopped when she was dying.
Her eyes had stared down her final year or so.
They, her eyes I mean, were stuck in places
I had never been. She smiled at what she saw,
sang German songs. I didn’t know she knew
German. I didn’t understand any-
thing, then or now, especially now.

After the rain, I went to the garden
to look at the stick I stuck in the ground.
I cried because it had a single bloom,
white, pink soft, damp from fresh rain.

There are still tiny specs of glass
scattered around the slider where my daughter
used to live. You can see them when the sun hits
just right. They glow in a bright white light.
I have tried to clean them up. I will try
some more. I suspect they may never go away.

from Rattle #63, Spring 2019


Jim Gustafson: “In 1966, I heard John Logan’s ‘Three Moves’ recited in a college class. That moment changed my view of poetry, the world, and myself. Since then I have written in search of understanding and shared my words in search of understanders.” (web)

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