/rebecca morton

I’ve Been Grieving For Months, How Long Can This Go On

after Laura Read

The desert is an obvious stand-in for grief, which is why
I’m so familiar with Wyoming. Also, I have this old

View-Master, a chartered bus tour souvenir
detailing the horizon’s early morning light,

designated craggy overlooks, a sandstone canyon’s
spectrum of reds. Why a desert? Vast is a partial answer.

Perpetual another. There are similar places, of course,
I have walked many dry lakebeds with their sorrows.

Veiny, hardened dust. But it is only the desert’s
smooth-bellied occupants, coils of poison trills,

that hide in the plains of sagebrush. Some nights
I dream of you, your small, sticky hands moving

my pencils and cell phone about my desk. Not now,
I say, I’m trying to work, so you hover there,

holding crayoned and glued construction paper,
for hours. Or maybe these are memories.

What I hope for is probably impossible: to never
return to that desolate, mid-western town where,

even in winter, my mother would leave me in the car
when retrieving certain prescriptions from the drug store.

Turtled in my yellow puffy coat, breath filling
the backseat, I’d close my eyes to the crunch of tires

in icy slush. I did eventually learn about frostbite,
which worms quietly into the skin and is sometimes

difficult to recognize. When your elastic bracelet
strung with glitter-beads disappeared deep

in April’s curb-piled snow, I watched you
fish around in that cold gray soup too long.

Called you inside too late. You struggled
as I peeled off all your sopping layers,

It’s lost forever! you cried, your swollen hands
a brilliant spectrum of reds, and burning.

Rebecca Morton received an MFA in poetry from Eastern Washington University. Her work recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Atlanta Review, RHINO, The Cincinnati Review, Poetry Northwest, Pacifica Literary Review, Sugar House Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago with her wife and children.