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Ona Gritz

January 2009



I want to know I can keep something alive
my husband said, having brought home
a cactus. Small, thumb-shaped, it lived
by his computer. If he ever watered it,
I couldn’t say. He was out most nights by then.
And me, I was up so often nursing.
One day, his plant sprouted a flower,
a bright red dot like a blood spot
on that digit. Happy, he danced
through our kitchen in a way
I once found charming. Meanwhile,
the baby had grown a milk-tooth,
learned to raise his arms for me
to lift him, responded
with wet smiles when I sang his name.

August, 1990

I sit in the stilled car,
feet in tan sandals on the dash,
gauzy dress gathered to my knees.
It is two o’clock, the hour
we are supposed to be married.
But the justice is late and the young man
beside me taps a beat on the steering wheel,
studies an airplane’s vapor trail
like a chalk line drawn across the sky.
Lifting a can of juice to my lips,
I think about the flowers wilting in the back seat
and how fully I want to love.
Of course, anything one does fully
is a journey alone. But I don’t yet know this.
Not once do I glance at the dangling keys.

On the Anniversary of my Mother’s Death

I’ve stripped the beds, gathered
up novels that lay piled on the floor,
dusted as far as I could reach,
rubbed Pledge into wood,
and as our towels and sheets
made their way through the spin cycle,
ran the vacuum over all that’s dropped
from our kitchen table. When I think
I’ve done enough, I think maybe
I’ve done enough to please her,
though behind its doors my closet
is still a wreck. For months, 
I left that box beneath the jumbled
shoes and fallen sweaters, while I kept
trying on the truth–her body burned
to bits she’d have quickly swept way.

Too Soon

Someone you know is there and then she’s not there.
She’s become a hush among the grownups
when she’s not a warning to never cross between cars.

 She’s become an open eye overhead
while you play with her friends. God’s neighbor.
A ghost girl who knows you’ve thought about
her beautiful doll with bendable legs going to waste.

 She hovers in the blind spots of your room
when you wake thinking, I’m still here.
And when you smell the skin of your upper arms,
warm and bland as oatmeal, for proof.

 Note to Self

Remember the peasant dress
with the pattern of small blue flowers
you loved when you were nine,
its ankle length skirt, puffed bodice,
elastic in the capped sleeves
that hugged your upper arms.
Sometimes Dan wraps his long
fingers at that same place
just below your shoulder.
Sometimes he whispers
into your middle-aged ear
words meant directly for that girl.
What can you know of the future?
There’ll be shifts and losses
you’ll contend with when you have to.
Put on something that makes you feel pretty.
Hold that man while he’s yours.

Ona Gritz's poetry has been published in numerous online and print literary journals. In 2007, she won the Inglis House poetry contest, the Late Blooms Poetry Postcard competition, and was nominated for two Pushcart prizes. Her chapbook of poems, Left Standing, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2005. Ona is also a children's author and columnist for the online journal, Literary Mama.

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