Four Poems by Rebecca Griswold
Sweep the Barn Floor
the dirt and dead birds,
the threshing floor
cut baseball cards from 1940
and a fencing suit
that belonged to the landlady.
At that time, who were we?
while she wove her sabre like a needle
en garde, heavy, lunged her opponent
breath labored under mask.
We were specks, little ideations
nothing more. We were cuttings
from the rose bush, stemless, round
flowerfaced and no thorns, not yet.
The barn and the house kept time
tapped impatient feet
in syncopation. They waited on us
for 133 years. The barn burned out
the top floor, lost. Still, it keeps
secrets, parts held on and hidden
for you, dear one. I see your face shine,
see your delight as you pull treasure
from nothing, My explorer
Small maple jar
like perfect bones
belonging to the vertebrae
of a small mammal.
Dientes de leche arced
in a handwritten font.
I don’t know why
my mother kept them
or why I’ve kept them too, strange
treasure. I tip them out carefully
and stack them back inside;
The broken bits are fine powder
I excuse to the floor
with an exhale.
I run the shiny side of a molar
along my lips, the grooves catch
slightly as the enamel glides.
The roots are gone, leaving
calcified chambers on the underside.
One tooth, pewter striped amalgam,
like a nail forced in,
or an unearthed piece
of howlite with its silvered vein.
Two wisdom teeth, still caked
in dried blood, a ruddy brown,
sound like two acrylic beads
as I strike them together,
or the slight tick tick
of a clock.
St. Bernard Soap Factory
Symmetric stone-stepped gables bookend
an ivory clock tower, a Midwest Amsterdam
imitation saddled along Mill Creek.
The smokestack is a blown-out taper,
smoldering since 1886,
an industrial smudge stick.
My grandfather is here, in 1933, and once someone
figures out travel across time and space,
we will finally meet.
Or in Youngstown, breaking horses.
Or on the farm in Pennsylvania, up at sunrise with the cows.
Or in the doublewide in California, worrying about the bakery,
Or in New Zealand, fetching Olive after the war.
Tending the sheep while mom walks to school.
I’ve been working out the mystery of you;
excavating, collecting the spectacular and the ugly of you,
trying on the cloaks of your mythology
to understand the shrouded quarter of my DNA.
The St. Bernard Soap Factory still stands,
a white brick guidepost,
a monument to your past,
or a hollowed-out husk
where history embalmed itself.