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Poor Christina

If grief has no name then it is not grief. When I was very young

the casket was drawn into the sunroom. The light flushed its wooden

planks as if it were a dock, simple and orderly as any other, lengthening

toward infinity. My father’s legs buoyed his body through the room

as flotsam through water. When my mother’s blood

spilled, it was invisible. No mop was sufficient to collect it. They tried

to explain the sister I could have had but didn’t. There was

a passageway inside my mother, what kind it was and where

it led I was not told, but if you held a straw to your eye

you could have seen my sister lodged inside. How did they know

it was a girl if she could fit inside a straw? Am I supposed to feel

sorry for her more than for my mother because she could not

come into the world, but what is the world? I was sent to live

on the farm. My grandmother was deaf. She never hugged me,

it was like she couldn’t hear how to do it. The wheelbarrow

wobbled along clacking its cargo of garden tools, and the chickens

sank their talons into the crinkling hay. There was the sound

of cans in the kitchen chiming and the thunk of cans anchored

with beans. My mother’s name was Violet and I could say it

as many times as I wanted. On the farm I got the scarlet fever

and the wind from the fields barreled into my room, the curtains

flapped at my arms rough as skirts of twine. My skin flaked, I was

a husk too long past harvest. The strawberry of my swollen tongue

shut tight inside my mouth. My grandmother’s tiny body in the chair.

Poor child, poor scarletina. No one said that, I made it up.

And when I shut my eyes I saw my sister, the button

that undid our lives. It hurt my heart, the scarlet fever. All of it

hurt my heart. If your grief has no name then give it one.

Poor Christina, my father used to say. It was not

my mother’s name. It was not my name.

from Paper Doll FetusFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2014
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Published in Cynthia Marie Hoffman Poems

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