THE THING ABOUT GRIEF AND ANTECHAMBERS
If this were a film,
the camera would first pan wide to reveal absence,
not depicting a single human in the room, but
setting the scene instead with an implied sort of human
existence – such as apple cores, half-read magazines, and
of course, the old beige telephone sitting in a dark corner,
looking constipated by the stillness all around,
the stagnant air daring it to ring, challenging it
to shatter the still-life composure of the room
with a cry as shrill as an eagle’s.
In the waiting room
the eavesdropping poet flips open a steno pad,
licks her number two pencil, and carefully notes
the way in which the look of concentration on the man’s face
reveals the gravity of his situation, literally pulling down
at the corners of his mouth and brow, his eyes squinting
at the doctor’s lips for something tangible, a desire
to read the space between them like Braille, his ears
straining at the doctor’s voice to hear more accurately
what the doctor won’t say.
Or perhaps at the train station,
casting an eye down the salle des pas perdus
one might glimpse a sort of freeze-frame,
like a breath suspended, the din a white noise waiting
for a sharper sibilance to break in, to split
the air like a knife, dividing molecules
into sound waves, an encryption
that will divvy light from dark, rendering matters
in newsprint scattered in sheaves on the station floor,
a study of contrast &chiaroscuro, something like
the edge of a blade, the metallic glint
of a bright afternoon – and instead of a train,
the sheen of a long black car, slowly swerving,
drawing up like a black looking-glass
to the grave.
Late this afternoon,
when all things threatening have been
nearly forgotten, the house suddenly becomes a seer,
telling fortunes in the humid air that swells the doorjambs,
puts the piano out of tune, and makes the cabinets stick.
Struck by the utter invisibility of its source, I watch curiously
as something outside the window stirs
all to the point of utter cacophony:
unfamiliar blackbirds flocking to telephone lines,
dark silhouettes clumped
in a steady pandemonium – then,
falling abruptly like sodden leaves
from the heights of the barren canopy.
The queer light, sliding horizontal,
the clouds so yellow it might rain dust.
The elderly woman
I encounter at the bus stop every morning
is telling me the story of her grandson’s death,
how after the school shooting all the parents had to wait
in the principal’s office for over an hour, waiting
to learn which of them would be going to the police station,
and which of them would be going to the hospital morgue.
The thing about grief and antechambers, she says,
is that at some point the exchange becomes so simple,
and so willing: hope for certainty.
I have never heard the woman speak before this.
Her accent is dense &exotic,
and drawn across her cheek
are the traces of some strange war,
a skein of scars, unraveling patiently.
Suzanne Rindell hails from Northern California, but am currently working toward my Ph.D. in English literature at Rice University. Recent and upcoming fiction and poetry publications include Nimrod, StorySouth, The Texas Review, Convergence, Sulphur River Literary Review, The Georgetown Review, The Absinthe Literary Review, Whistling Shade, and others.