“There is nothing new about grief” by Jan Zlotnik Schmidt

There is nothing new about grief
The way it burns fingers until
they blister or sears through
the body like an electric shock.
The way it leaves traces  marks
like white fingerprints on sunburnt
skin  or the crust at the corner
of the eye after weeping.
There is nothing new about grief
The way silence roots in the gullet
The way you want to yowl
But there are no screams
from a wounded tongue.
At night as cool wind seeps in from
an open window   you are sure you hear
a woman’s screech   then you realize it’s
coyotes’ cacophonous cries  and yelps
echoing against dark mountains.
You want sleep   you want oblivion
No more visions of black rubber body
bags stacked in cooler trucks or faces
masked in blue cloth   eyes staring out
from dimmed television screens.
And then the scratching
almost soundless   creatures 
under the sink   in crevices
In the walls   scurrying across
wood planked floors.
You find a carcass of a small
grey mouse in the bathtub 
toothpick legs stretched up  eyes bloodied.
Into the trash it goes.    You ditch it
without a thought.  Without mourning. 
Without grief.  Or so you think.
At night:  a graven image of disaster.
And your bloodied hands.

Jan Zlotnik Schmidt’s work has been published in many journals including the The Alaska Quarterly Review, Cream City Review, and Kansas Quarterly.. Her work also has been nominated for the Pushcart Press Prize. Two volumes of poetry were published by the Edwin Mellen Press (We Speak in Tongues, 1991; She had this memory, 2000) and another, Foraging for Light recently was published by Finishing Line Press. (2019).