George Kalamaras

Issue #
February 18, 2013

Wake This Red. Drink the Reach of Grief

                                                                                  For Barney

I wish I understood the rain, the way
it crawls across my shoulder in shadow,
like Gene’s death, like Mary, my female
beagle Barney’s final week
and a half when she was too unsteady to eat,
and I poured some strange red juice into her
mouth with a syringe, propped her
from behind so she could pee. That’s where I died
for the hundred seventeenth time.
Once there was a divorce, then a boy felt
unloved. We all feel loved when it rains
as if our shadow’s shadow were crawling out,
tortoise-tough, to sad weeks and a strange makeshift
gloom, loving us enough to cloak some
magnificent dark. Someone passes you a shawl
with Athenian black-goat fringe, takes your hand,
places her lip into the word you have
yet to speak, the word she creates in body
heat, in two tongues entwined with time
and the minute blood passings too small to eat.
God, I loved her—each one of her—Cindy
from fifth grade, Cinora, Mary Ann, still,
Barney’s sad brown eye. I look into the mirror
and believe in God, once and for—maybe.
Maybe, of course, we die because we love,
as if loving itself was a blood
pheasant, a Livermore hawk
talon screaming back the skin, the river-slit
of suddenly seeing through the ripples of this world
and discovering owl resin in the cheek.
I am visited nightly by my wingèd bleed.
I don’t come here after November
because the river is dead
cold. People say, be easy, drink the reach
of grief. People sense this about me when
we meet. This shift of foot, that. The way
I avert my eye from that mole on my friend’s
left breast when she breathes
lovely, low-cut, the rise and
rise of my secret need. Some dark blotch of myself
is always falling out toward me into the eyes
of unrequited love, falling from me,
through her, through mutual rain. If it’s Sunday,
set the table with wild starlings.
If we darken a Thursday, the family
might finally weep. The man in the belly
of the crow is not a piece of bread.
1181 miles of plains
is at least 1182 miles away.
I wish I understood this pain, stretching
its threat like a coral reef paling
its red to dead. First, there’s the color
of uncharted weather
crying out to cannibalize itself
with uncertain calm. Then, the shimmering
brilliance of touch. Then the rich expanse,
aqua blue. I could die to fit in that ocean
of relegated starlight, and should,
even among Colorado snowcaps. I lost
the star-chart, the figure eight emblazoned
in my chest, when I tried to cover her death
with a green wool vest and standing
straight. God, she was beautiful.
Dark light posing as black beagle fur.
Raccoon mask of a face disguising
the beginning of the world and its
light. The red fluid I squeezed past her
lip that week was my own
inside cry, as if I poured
all the boyhood years of divorce,
the struggle-clutch toward this mouth and that,
into the sun-stung mountains of the West.
Dear troubled dream of being alive:
we are in the body for such a short kiss—
here, wake this red where rain runs north.

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