to a grandfather who loved the smell of pine

to a grandfather who loved the smell of pine
Elizabeth Lalley

sit on the orange sofa
with the paper
stretched like the sky
before you

your face turned to
a cold fireplace
(like a dark
sea cave)

slowly face warmth
with each stacked log

did you love the bravery
of Jean Valjean?
that must be it
that story
so resonant
you forgot how many
times
you’d told me
the tale

***

i’ll twist myself into all the corners
of the dusty garage
where you sat
looking out at fields,
overgrown, reclaiming
what they lost

the tackle boxes will hold
small parts of breath
and
arms tired from holding fishing poles
tired from pulling in fish
tired of too many good things

for you,
it was not tiring to be good.
but it was to be lonely.

even with eyes
empty
of tears
sifting through tools and
old fishing line,
i hear you say
there is beauty still

tapped trees
and boiled sugar
gave us all sweet dreams
in the north room
where i once saw my great-grandfather’s ghost,
apologizing
for being gruff to his children

you,
the gentleman farmer
a hound at your feet
full of endless tales that i now,
desperately,
try to remember the sound of

i think of the way my eyes
blur
when i look at stars
and suddenly
see outlines more clearly,
looking beyond
milky darkness

i can do that with your stories

pretend i’m not listening
listen instead to the yellow flowers
in the mason jar
the water slowly evaporating
(mourning flowers)
i pretend i’m not searching
sonically
for the sound of your voice
to call back police friends
and Detroit backyards,
ice rinks that weren’t as big
as your children remember them

but we all forget that we were once
smaller than we are

and will grow small again
and remember what it was like
when forgiveness was only breathing

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