Grief

Grief
By Matthew Dickman

When grief comes to you as a purple gorilla

you must count yourself lucky.

You must offer her what’s left

of your dinner, the book you were trying to finish

you must put aside

and make her a place to sit at the foot of your bed,

her eyes moving from the clock

to the television and back again.

I am not afraid. She has been here before

and now I can recognize her gait

as she approaches the house.

Some nights, when I know she’s coming,

I unlock the door, lie down on my back,

and count her steps

from the street to the porch.

Tonight she brings a pencil and a ream of paper,

tells me to write down

everyone I have ever known,

and we separate them between the living and the dead

so she can pick each name at random.

I play her favorite Willie Nelson album

because she misses Texas

but I don’t ask why.

She hums a little,

the way my brother does when he gardens.

We sit for an hour

while she tells me how unreasonable I’ve been,

crying in the check-out line,

refusing to eat, refusing to shower,

all the smoking and all the drinking.

Eventually she puts one of her heavy

purple arms around me, leans

her head against mine,

and all of a sudden things are feeling romantic.

So I tell her,

things are feeling romantic.

She pulls another name, this time

from the dead,

and turns to me in that way that parents do

so you feel embarrassed or ashamed of something.

Romantic? She says,

reading the name out loud, slowly

so I am aware of each syllable, each vowel

wrapping around the bones like new muscle,

the sound of that person’s body

and how reckless it is,

how careless that his name is in one pile and not the other.


About the author

Matthew Dickman is the twin brother of poet Michael Dickman. He. grew up in Oregon. He earned a BA at the University of Oregon and an MFA at the University of Texas-Austin’s Michener Center.

He is the author of poetry collections:

Wonderland (2018)

Mayakovsky’s Revolver (2014)

50 American Poems (cowritten with Michael Dickman, 2012)

All American Poem (2008).

Unabashed in their celebration and in their grief, Dickman’s expansive lyric poems are full of references to popular culture, personal history, and class-based struggle.

Dickman’s work has won the  American Poetry Review’s Honickman First Book Prize, the 2009 Oregon Book Award for Poetry,  the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, the American Academy of Arts and Science’s May Sarton Poetry Prize. He has been awarded residencies and fellowships from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Vermont Studio Center, Literary Arts of Oregon, and the Lannan Foundation. Matthew Dickman lives in Portland, Oregon

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