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).