After My Grandmother Thought to Throw Herself into a River
John Dudek

The breath of a cracked window blows
over my bare chest another October morning.
These are the days I choose to wake and live
for in them all things are animated.
Let me tell you how the tenements convey
their sadness in this white light,
paint chipped into endless baby teeth.
How the corner’s silver maple shakes
like a Newfoundland dog on fire,
phone cables running through his coat
like leads. How the cold river twitches,
one of many tails of a riddling dragon.
All autumn—all Fall beasts were familiars
to me. I fed apple cores to their rootstock
and tributaries. When this was not enough,
I shaved slices of my rage like deli meat
till I was thin and weak. I offered it
to the fantastic menagerie before they donned
and shed their gaudy coats. If you need metaphor,
take my knuckles as they were
between heavy bag and the boy I was.
If you want to know the balance
after this attempt, that’s hard. We’re barefoot
at both stages—dispossessed, distrustful
of Spring’s pastel complexion. But I guess,
when the mud smears the hillocks and snowmelt
froths at our banks, I am colder. The maples
hide their breath from me because, after all,
there’s simply less of it to go around.

John Dudek is a recent graduate of the MFA program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His work has appeared in the Journal and elsewhere.