The Thing Is

Fujifilm X-T1, ISO 300, FL 200 mm, 1/1000 sec@f/11

The Thing Is

to love life, to love it even

when you have no stomach for it

and everything you’ve held dear

crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,

your throat filled with the silt of it.

When grief sits with you, its tropical heat

thickening the air, heavy as water

more fit for gills than lungs;

when grief weights you like your own flesh

only more of it, an obesity of grief,

you think, How can a body withstand this?

Then you hold life like a face

between your palms,  a plain face,

no charming smile, no violet eyes,

and you say, yes, I will take you

I will love you, again.

Ellen Bass


On eating coconut butter on toast


This coconut butter is NOT what I had as a child.

I got taken by the wizened, wrinkled, sun-dried woman at the Florida roadside stand.

‘Cause I REMEMBER coconut butter.

That’s when Momma made beds in the car and Daddy drove all night.
When I woke up, I saw palm trees whisking by, past the car window.
And then the cottage – with the funny windows and tile floors
and the window AC chugging out cold air
into rooms that looked nothing like home but felt like family.
And the sand, everywhere, everywhere.
Seagulls plaintive cries.
And the siren call of the ocean.

Daddy said ‘Not now’ and Momma said, ‘He needs to sleep’
But still we would run screaming through the dunes to the water.
And both of them would follow, laughing.

Daddy would crouch down in the waves so that the water was at his chest.
He would pull me onto his knees.
‘Get ready’.
I would crouch down on his knees, most of my face under the waves.
1, 2, 3 – Takeoff!!!!
And he would push up, up, up on my crouching butt as he stood up
giving me wings to fly.

I swear to you! My head was in the puffy, white clouds and when I looked down
the water glittered far, far below and then my heart thumped, thumped, thumped me back down
and I hit the water and all the splashes around me sparkled
like diamonds in the sun.
‘Do it again, do it again!’

Coconut butter on white bread toast was so good.
Momma and Daddy hugging each other in the corner of the kitchen.
Like I didn’t see them, ha!

My gloomy sister scalded red.
She never tanned, only burned.
The rest of us brown as pecans in just a few days.
My brothers with identical crewcuts but nothing alike
Fighting over plastic ‘diver dan’.

This coconut butter is NOT what I had as a child.

Daddy saying ‘I don’t like the covers too tight on my feet’.
My Daddy that lifted me to the clouds is barely there.
So small, a tiny, tiny little swell in the white bed in the white room.
I can see him fading away right in front of my eyes.

And my Momma says nothing.
Just the beep, beep, beep of the machine
Tying her to the life she no longer wanted.

This coconut butter is NOT what I had as a child.

Diana Davidson, 2017