Poetry

The Gravedigger

Sarah Wolfson

It went like this: I looked through the dream window and

               remembered remembering a salamander,

 

the one from childhood I always moved from road to ditch,

               the one and only, though I did so daily

 

for the length of someone’s mating season. I remembered

               the week the fireflies dissolved into crickets.

 

We’d just lived through the big thing, which had destroyed

               our brains. You couldn’t lick the screens,

 

couldn’t see the shy way they almost wanted to speak. My skull

               felt empty which meant I lacked the words

 

to describe such emptiness. I remembered the day

               I broke a perfect spider web. Silk to hand

 

as the garbage bag bombed its perfect arc through everything.

               I thought of getting a life coach, a career coach, a person

 

to help me deal with this recent bout of vocal fry,

               a lavender oil specialist. Then one day I simply did it,

 

that thing I’d always looked for through the dream window,

               spurred on by the neighbour’s cat who left small offerings,

 

each dead mouse a small kangaroo with its hands.

               In the space between, I heard my skull

 

holding what it holds, wanting to speak. A shy person

               from behind the screen. I knew then the real me

 

was made from bone and impulse for worm and clay.

               I left everything and ran away to earth,

 

to bury the dead and help them stay there. I fought off

               curious groundhogs, jewel thieves. I whistled to birds,

 

counted stars. Sometimes the dead climbed out,

               to check the time or see that they’d remembered

 

to turn off the stove, sign the divorce papers. I took them

               by their brittle elbows and said come, now. I settled into

 

my calling, shushing the dead as you would a dog or toddler,

saying ah-ah-ah: stay right where you are, you’re fine now, stay.

Image: Khalili Collections; Creative CommonsAttribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

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Sarah Wolfson

Sarah Wolfson is the author of A Common Name for Everything, which won the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry from the Quebec Writers’ Federation. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in journals such as The Walrus, The Fiddlehead, The Yale Review, Arc, and TriQuarterly. Her work has also been anthologized in Rewilding: Poems for the Environment and The Wonder of Small Things: Poems of Peace and Renewal as well as longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize. Originally from Vermont, she now lives in Montreal, where she teaches poetry and creative writing at McGill University.

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