Poem on a Line from Akhmatova
I shall eat blue grapes with those who are dead
After tonight’s supper, when you had left the room,
a maybe-shadow crossed the kitchen with no one
attached to it. Across the creek, before we’d even
moved in, a white-haired man leaned on his cane
to watch our painters, then stepped onto an old,
grown-over road. And vanished in its brush and
broken asphalt. In Deerfield, Massachusetts, you
and I read of the 1704 massacre, then walked
through dripping June heat and dim, thin-walled
rooms with windowpanes small as my palm.
Those houses were still sad, black front doors
set in frames scrolled like gravestones. Please,
listen. No place is really empty. Take this fruit
in your hands and offer it. There is something more
than just remembering. Even if it’s my great-aunt,
tan in her green and white summer shirtwaist.
She’s on the phone, as always, standing behind
the back door’s dented screen, one foot balanced
on a cold radiator, her leg hoisted waist-high. And I
am five. I want to go outside and have to crawl
beneath her. I see she also wears Hush Puppies,
nylons with seams, and a washed-out garter belt.
But she doesn’t notice me. She twirls one finger
in her hair. Can’t you hear what it is she’s saying?