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The 2River View 15.2 (Winter 2011)
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William Stratton

Grandpa

Nothing is a something, it'll suck you dry as the whispe
you can hardly hear that tells you why. —
Chris Smither

Forty years ago I lost my arm,
up on the hill to the corn picker,
walked the mile back to the house
with my belt around my arm.
I tied it with my teeth and dialed
the operator with my good hand,
but I never felt like I lost anything
till I put down the bottle
and picked up the farm again,
colder, less a few pounds, sober.

It was a long mile, I thought about the hay
catching fire and tearing through the loft,
raining down on my heifers the spirit
of sensation, and I felt my missing hand grip
that husk for the last time.

Last year my son drove his truck
into a pond. His last words a thank you
for the drink his friend poured.
I never died from feeling the lack
but I gave unwillingly my son
to the empty space the booze forms.

I know I have one more in me.
This past thanksgiving, I asked my grandson
for one last bottle, scotch. I want to drink it
on my deathbed, and remember his father.

My last words

I have already uttered them, unknowingly,
though they sit apart now in some disorder
awaiting the proper moment to unite.

Perhaps already I have poems that contain them,
a narrative imbedded in something self important
which on that day I will be ashamed to admit
is grandiose and wholly insufficient.
Perhaps I have spoken them on the phone to my mother
as words barely words, but in a language
only that bond could pass in understanding;
or engraved them into some table when I was younger,
in passion to some cause I can not remember.
Perhaps I will simply slip on an untied lace
and the long-awaited words will consist
of no more than a few vulgarities
as I float down the stairwell.
On that distant day perhaps
I will be inspired beyond what I am now capable of.
It is no good to speculate.

I hope I will think of some other day
when those words and I had
a better time of it, when I sat on the bank
of some slippery river and watched the water
dive down the arced stones towards sunset,
and never once stopping to whisper any farewell.

William Stratton lives Newmarket, New Hampshire, where he attends the MFA program at the University of New Hampshire. contact

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