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Tell Me

If I were to heave up my innards for you,
liver, kidney, spleen,
right here in this kitchen,
splat plunk on this oak table,
would it be enough?
Pull my intestines out like
a magician’s scarf,
all twenty-two feet of them,
drape them over the kitchen cabinets
like twinkle lights,
then splosh my heart into
the glass bowl we got for our wedding,
The one where pears
ripen and rot each week
waiting to be chosen–
Could we call it even then?

The Solace of Dirt

What would I have told my father then,
a boy of thirteen, dog tired,
hands wrecked from digging graves–
as he watched a soda jerk spoon peanuts
onto his chocolate sundae?

Maybe I’d tell him that there was no solace coming,
no matter how many graves he dug,
no solace after this death, his mother’s death,
not when a mother loved her son
with a Titanic-sized devotion,
huge, unwieldy, doomed.

Maybe I’d tell him that this after-school job,
an odd choice for grief so fresh,
for one so recently burdened, wasn’t going to help,
that there wasn’t a hole big enough to contain the loss,

that the dark earth ground into his pants,
the same dirt that held her in ghastly repose,
couldn’t be cleaned out, not ever–

that the taint of dirt and death and grief
would be a forever stain across generations,
and that ice cream would never taste right again,
no matter how many peanuts were piled on it.

Linda Flaherty Haltmaier is an award-winning writer and the Poet Laureate of Andover, Massachusetts. She is the winner of the Homebound Publications Poetry Prize for her full-length collection, Rolling up the Sky (2016). She was named a finalist for the Princemere Poetry Prize and the Tucson Festival of the Book. Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared extensively in journals and anthologies. A Harvard graduate, Haltmaier has earned residencies at the Noepe Center for the Literary and has been a poetry contributor at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.