I’m not convinced
that standing in the cemetery
long enough for the slow
dark to draw lightning bugs,
their fluorescence pulsing
over my parents showing me
their newly erected headstone,
and where they’d like me
to plant hostas and geraniums
in the earth that will cover them
will do anything to relieve
the coming grief. They’re ready.
my eye to the future,
blinked toward the new.
Once I thought
tragedy would define me,
something stray, a fast-moving
object lodged into my brain.
What defines me is constancy
of place, and my urge against it.
I’ve been going about this
the wrong way, licking
the same sore,
gnawing on childhood,
trying to bite away the fleas.
Questions for Frances
If I touch the bruise on your arm, is that memory?
Why do you call me your flower?
When I rang the church bell, did I hear your voice?
Why aren’t you answering my questions?
Why don’t I remember you laughing?
Is that you laughing?
Do you understand that we’re going in circles?
That time is mashed like potatoes?
Is your apron gravy-stained?
Do you really believe idle hands are the devil’s workshop?
That we’re all going in that hand basket to hell?
Why don’t I remember the words to your songs?
Why don’t you sing me a hymn?
Make the leaves your chorus?
And the wind the big fat melody?
What should I say if I’m questioned?
That trees make excellent music?
That you never used your voice to sing?
That once upon a time there was a town?
A crabapple tree?
That nothing is desperate or immense?
That faith can be called corn, coffee, and kitchen soap?
Laura Van Prooyen is author of two collections of poetry, Our House Was on Fire (Ashland Poetry Press 2015) nominated by Philip Levine and winner of the McGovern Prize and Inkblot and Altar (Pecan Grove Press 2006). She is also co-author with Gretchen Bernabei of Text Structures from Poetry, a book of writing lessons for educators of grades 4-12 (Corwin Literacy forthcoming 2020). Van Prooyen teaches in the low-residency MFA Creative Writing Program at Miami University in Oxford, OH. She lives in San Antonio, TX.