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
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.