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Poetry

Gary Leising

Gary Leising is the author of the book, The Alp at the End of My Street, from Brick Road Poetry Press (2014). He has also published three poetry chapbooks. He lives in Clinton, New York, with his wife and two sons, where he teaches creative writing and poetry as distinguished professor of English at Utica College.

Gift from a Flood

Jokes of arks and two-by-two lost their bite
Or the bite increased if bite means causing pain
And we watched water run in streams
Where streams never ran before
The rain still fell when we were in the basement
Saving what we could among the boxes we left
There since moving, stuff we couldn’t part with
Yet hadn’t used in years—that sort of dead weight
Cliché we carry from home to home
Like anvils in our hearts, like cannonballs
They fill the stockings of our souls
The pasts we erase with folded and taped flaps
On markered basement boxes: OLD PHOTOS,
FINANCIALS, DAILY PLANNERS we stopped using
Every year by June and then for good
When we switched to a cloud calendar
N95 masks shielded us against the mold we knew
The flood was roiling into the air
As we carried sog-heavy boxes up the stairs
And set them to dry on old sheets spread out
Like picnic tablecloths on the tiled kitchen floor
My journals were too wet to burn
Yet I refused to read about my past—the hurt
I caused myself and others I wanted sunk
And dissolute at the bottom of a sea
Newborn in this primordial rain-sludge
(I imagined a nautilus and trilobites feeding
On those wet-rotting pages of penciled words)
When the bottom of the photo box broke open
In your arms you wept for memories
Curling like waves before their scrolls sank away
Nothing I said could comfort you
I thought that wasn’t new
As I surveyed the basement stuff of failures
My failures in unfinished work or hobbies
Long abandoned, sharp gardening tools rusted
For want of oil, various odd cooking things
Used once or twice now dotted with mouse shit
Or holiday decorations, some we forgot to hang
At least every other year, missing some celebrations
But look, a shoebox of greeting cards somehow dry
On top a few in sympathy after my father’s death
A friend wrote in the first, The good person you are
Shows what kind of man he was