Sunday May 26

GoodmanHenrietta Henrietta Goodman is the author of three books of poetry: All That Held Us (John Ciardi Prize, BkMk Press, 2018), Hungry Moon (Colorado State UP, 2013), and Take What You Want (Beatrice Hawley Award, Alice James Books, 2007). Her current project is a collaborative manuscript consisting of two parallel alphabets of acrostic poems contemplating the intersection of the human and non-human animal worlds. Her poems and essays have recently been published in New England Review, Mid-American Review, Gulf Coast, Field, Guernica, Massachusetts Review, 32 Poems, and other journals. She teaches at the University of Montana.

Jukebox: four good songs (three Springsteen and that Tom Petty one, you got lucky…).
Anubis: jackal-guide to the afterlife, because no one wants to think of jackals eating
Corpses. Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact, but here where beer’s cheap and that guy playing
Keno falls off his stool onto a litter of peanut shells, I’m not picky about what keeps me alive,
Ashamed of scavenging. I’m not a snob, I mean, and not a psychopomp, either. But after
Last call, I’ll take you to some 24-hour diner, buy you a burger, see you home safe.


Red-Winged Blackbirds
You think he’s taken you to an ordinary place? A little park behind a strip mall,
cattails in late spring—dingy fluff like stuffing bursting through the threadbare
upholstery of some abandoned couch, spilling down the stalks like foam
on a glass. Trampled dirt, bedraggled grass, a few candy wrappers, turtles
sunning on logs. You know him just well enough to fight—and why
are you so afraid of loving someone who will die? Canada geese swim toward
your empty hand, expecting bread, and then you see the first red-winged
blackbird, then another, then four, quadrupling what you thought was singular,
rare—the air and trees are full of them—a trick of nature, to withhold
or give too much. A creek links two shallow ponds with a trail between them
and around, a figure eight, the shape of infinity, but the stream runs in
on one end, out on the other—that’s how it is. Does he not know the red blaze
on these birds’ wings is the same as the red bill of the black swan that sailed
across the cemetery pond, its wake trailing like a veil? Does he not know the bill
of that swan is the red lipstick on the lips of the first boy you ever loved,
and the graceful neck of that swan is his neck wrapped in rope—how he stepped
out of the tree, eighteen years old, and dropped? How would he know?
There are too many of them, these beauties, this darkness with a slash of red.

Asked to Imagine the Death of my Son
It’s true I don’t want to think of choosing
clothes in which to bury him, not just because
my son would rather burn. I’d wrap him
in a sheet and keep the clothes that hold
the damp machine smell of his sweat like oiled
gears, the cologne his first girlfriend gave him.
When my first love died, his mother dressed
him in a black suit and skinny crocheted tie
he might have liked, makeup to hide whatever
hanging does, though he would have worn
more eyeliner. My friend buried her baby
in a Montana winter twenty years ago,
a bundle small as a cat. I’ve buried only
an actual cat, my son’s—bad enough
and my fault, since by the time we went
to the vet, it was too late. I sat on the kitchen
floor, slit the black plastic, wrapped the body
in the Where the Wild Things Are shirt
my son picked out. On the way to the beach
last summer, my son joked about killing someone,
and my mother said why do you have to talk
about death all the time? and my son said
it’s a fact of life, and my mother said why can’t
you talk about other facts of life? and I said
he talks about sex a lot, too. When my son
was six, in the cemetery where I used to sit
with my first love—my son’s thumbnails
painted black, hair hanging over his eyes—
we posed for a picture. So there’s my son
standing like a boy who is dead, and here he is
in the kitchen, teaching me the swing dance
moves he learned in gym—the tornado,
the pretzel, and one called the eternal spin
of death—at fourteen, an inch taller than I am,
holding me in a dip over the dirty black
and white tiles, and not dropping me.