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From arrest to needle, he spoke only gibberish

Three poems by Susan Grace

Old Man and Girl

  • Daybreak, like a peach in August,
  • breakfast at the bar, china and silver — doesn’t matter,
  • he’d drink Louisiana chicory coffee out of an old
  • field boot. Hand-mashed blackberry toast, chewing slowly,
  • watching Ana Sofia on the veranda sweeping,
  • a fickle breeze lifting her hair, letting it break
  • on the shoreline of her shoulders, and her dress, white,
  • rectangular, embroidered flowers, pressed to the back
  • of her legs, the hem flapping at her calves,
  • sweeping and sometimes stopping, sweeping and stopping,
  • shifting the broom to one hand, the other floating up to her brow,
  • looking at the day, at the cornfield, and he looks too.
  • What does she see? he wonders. Strong green rows
  • or acres and acres of dead stalks that lay like fallen soldiers?
  • And what does she hear? He sees her hear something
  • when she raises that hand to her brow, tilts her head.
  • The voice of God? Or the wind rattling dead leaves?
  • There is a kind of grief in wind-blown leaves,
  • in rain after harvest.

Two Words

  • In secret weekend negotiations held at La Bastide de Moustiers —
  • favorite house in Provence of world-famous,
  • 21 Michelin stars chef Alain Ducasse — five CEOs
  • of the largest investment banks in America,
  • two Federal Reserve Bank presidents,
  • a top-tier US Treasury Department official,
  • and four Congressmen, both parties, well-entrenched,
  • came together to finalize the Plan and left the inn
  • only for the occasional stroll through the ten-acre gardens.
  • Not only did their whereabouts shock Americans,
  • but their near-simultaneous deaths 32,000 feet
  • above the Atlantic culminated in a death-penalty verdict
  • for the carpenter who — five years unemployed and utterly mad
  • when offered the job of mushroom slicer for that clandestine gathering,
  • hired by Ducasse himself as a favor to a friend’s
  • American cousin — surreptitiously replaced matsutake mushrooms
  • with the slow-acting, highly-toxic amanitas.
  • From arrest to needle, he spoke only gibberish
  • peppered with two words —
  • you’re welcome.

Anniversary

  • Words swim through shallows while a salmon
  • in butcher paper sails through the air, thuds,
  • slides across tile, collides with lemon, ginger root, shoots
  • them past the knife and wine goblet, past spring peas,
  • new potatoes, all the way to the edge — over,
  • lost in the shadows cast from the center island,
  • lit by the window framing the lake that blackens with the setting sun.
  • The tip of her finger — nail painted pink, like labia, areola,
  • like salmon — slides into a fold, tears open the wrap, pulls out
  • the fish, its glassy eye fixed forever up, trained now
  • on the bottle of  Sauvignon Blanc meant for the glaze, empty,
  • the last poured into the goblet, raised, her own eyes glassy
  • peer over the rim, to the thin white gash on the skin
  • of the lake cut by a sliver-sharp moon as his hour-ago
  • words glide by again, swim deeper still, leave
  • ever-widening ripples in their wake.

Susan Grace is an associate editor with the lit-cultural journal Fiction International. She has published in Autre Magazine and is pursuing her MFA in fiction at San Diego State University.

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Old Man and Girl

  • Daybreak, like a peach in August,
  • breakfast at the bar, china and silver — doesn’t matter,
  • he’d drink Louisiana chicory coffee out of an old
  • field boot. Hand-mashed blackberry toast, chewing slowly,
  • watching Ana Sofia on the veranda sweeping,
  • a fickle breeze lifting her hair, letting it break
  • on the shoreline of her shoulders, and her dress, white,
  • rectangular, embroidered flowers, pressed to the back
  • of her legs, the hem flapping at her calves,
  • sweeping and sometimes stopping, sweeping and stopping,
  • shifting the broom to one hand, the other floating up to her brow,
  • looking at the day, at the cornfield, and he looks too.
  • What does she see? he wonders. Strong green rows
  • or acres and acres of dead stalks that lay like fallen soldiers?
  • And what does she hear? He sees her hear something
  • when she raises that hand to her brow, tilts her head.
  • The voice of God? Or the wind rattling dead leaves?
  • There is a kind of grief in wind-blown leaves,
  • in rain after harvest.

Two Words

  • In secret weekend negotiations held at La Bastide de Moustiers —
  • favorite house in Provence of world-famous,
  • 21 Michelin stars chef Alain Ducasse — five CEOs
  • of the largest investment banks in America,
  • two Federal Reserve Bank presidents,
  • a top-tier US Treasury Department official,
  • and four Congressmen, both parties, well-entrenched,
  • came together to finalize the Plan and left the inn
  • only for the occasional stroll through the ten-acre gardens.
  • Not only did their whereabouts shock Americans,
  • but their near-simultaneous deaths 32,000 feet
  • above the Atlantic culminated in a death-penalty verdict
  • for the carpenter who — five years unemployed and utterly mad
  • when offered the job of mushroom slicer for that clandestine gathering,
  • hired by Ducasse himself as a favor to a friend’s
  • American cousin — surreptitiously replaced matsutake mushrooms
  • with the slow-acting, highly-toxic amanitas.
  • From arrest to needle, he spoke only gibberish
  • peppered with two words —
  • you’re welcome.

Anniversary

  • Words swim through shallows while a salmon
  • in butcher paper sails through the air, thuds,
  • slides across tile, collides with lemon, ginger root, shoots
  • them past the knife and wine goblet, past spring peas,
  • new potatoes, all the way to the edge — over,
  • lost in the shadows cast from the center island,
  • lit by the window framing the lake that blackens with the setting sun.
  • The tip of her finger — nail painted pink, like labia, areola,
  • like salmon — slides into a fold, tears open the wrap, pulls out
  • the fish, its glassy eye fixed forever up, trained now
  • on the bottle of  Sauvignon Blanc meant for the glaze, empty,
  • the last poured into the goblet, raised, her own eyes glassy
  • peer over the rim, to the thin white gash on the skin
  • of the lake cut by a sliver-sharp moon as his hour-ago
  • words glide by again, swim deeper still, leave
  • ever-widening ripples in their wake.

Susan Grace is an associate editor with the lit-cultural journal Fiction International. She has published in Autre Magazine and is pursuing her MFA in fiction at San Diego State University.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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