A triptych of poems all called Grief

Author note: Composed after reading Jacob Shores-Argüello’s triptych “Grief, Grief, Goose.”

Tell me how he died

a martyr. How he waged war against the earth,

although he didn’t mean to, and so the earth

waged it back and did mean to.

A lone plane drones, which means they’re all out,

which means you run inside for cover and stay

there. Thick and heavy silence returns, so you go

back outside but Not too far! Not to the bamboo

thicket, not with the dogs to the woods. If it were

cooler, you’d protest, but your mom has the great

exhausting heat on her side today and so you listen.

In the old days, people tilled the earth using tools

and horses. You learned that till means dig up from

the show where people make-believe, wear their

hair funny, and ask questions like Can you believe

they used to do this by hand? You wonder if your

grandpa would say till or plow or something else,

since his mouth was so full of witty and sweet words

that he didn’t like to waste space with fancy ones.

In the less-old days, he plowed and planted and

grew and nurtured the land. Cursed it a little if the

rains weren’t right. Filled it with green and white

and yellow things, which sometimes you got to

eat but which mostly went away in huge boxes

like the ones outside turning brown, red, and rough.

You make me laugh when you call it that, the rain

that’s not rain. He flew a plane like that, back then,

sprinkled the fields with the not-rain to kill the bad

things. Lucky he got to do that job, not the one flying

overseas, using the not-rain to kill the bad things

and the good things.

The jobs were different, but the not-rain was a bit

similar. Needed to be handled with extreme care,

which you know he was good at because you could

hold his hand, or climb up, sit with him, let him

hold yours, steer the loud machines together, any

time you wanted.

Tell me how he yelled

and leapt around the field completely naked.

See, when you were still an egg inside of another

egg inside of your grandma, he was in an accident,

but it looked like he just got caught outside in a

bad storm. We weren’t there so we have to make

up the rest of the details, but that doesn’t mean it’s

not true.

Because it was serious, he bolted up fast, ripped his

clothes and boots clean off. Ran, skipped, hopped

over the blisteringly hot ground until he reached the

lean-to, where he could hose off, find something

dry and unspoiled to wear, and quit leaping around

naked in a field. It was a sight, and his buddies

hooted and hollered and whistled from afar. But

they turned serious and agreed he should go.

Sometimes, the great exhausting heat makes the

roads gooey. But farm roads are dirt, so they just

cracked and got searing hot, which meant he put

his boots back on, which meant he got sick, which

meant the great exhausting heat was not on his side.

Neither was the great rain, because if it was, maybe

it could’ve been real––that he was just wet from a

storm. Even if it wasn’t, at least the dirt might’ve

been less dry, less scorching on his bare feet.

Tell me how the earth waged it back

Well, a farmer talking to a doctor is bad. You learned

this from the show, too. Farmers are too busy with

things like feeding the country to go to the doctor,

who is usually very far away, which means the

problem has to be worth the time, the journey.

So he went, and because he was tan and strong

and had all his fingers and kept cracking jokes

with people in the waiting room, the receptionist

asked if he was sure he was in the right place. And

because he was in clean, dry clothes, the doctor said

he had done all the right things, so he went home.

Later in the less-old days, he was tan and strong

enough to carry his kids’ kids on his back and had

all his fingers and was in clean, dry clothes and kept

cutting up with the other patients. But this was four

hours away, not one, and not a place for hands with

missing fingers, which meant the receptionist was

never confused, which meant the doctors were always

serious. They said he did almost all the right things,

and it was impossible to know for sure. But maybe

if the dirt hadn’t been so hot, the boots so wet… And

they were doing all the right things, but also saying

words like strange and very rare, and quiet experts

kept giving us papers with phrases like New research

suggests and class-action. And all we were thinking

was If only the rain was real, not the one that needed

extreme care and So what, that it kills the bad things

in the fields, that it helps the good things grow?

They’re saying it does the opposite in grandpas. So

now he was full of it, the dirt was full of it, and the

air was suffocatingly full of things like stealthy and

It played the long game, which meant This is a losing

battle, although they couldn’t say it like that, which

meant we didn’t have the heat, rain, or time on our

side, which meant the earth wanted him back.

Meg Curran is a Georgia-born writer. She’s currently in Norway writing about culture, heritage, and food.