7 November 2017

Words for Sorrow

Words for Sorrow

When my great-grandmother
discovered she was the last speaker
of the mid-west dialect,
she ditched her songs
of wind and tumbleweed
to mime for me
ten words for sorrow.

Her garments were eased
to show a sorrow that salted
deep folds in her skin.
That rose and hooked
the back of her throat.
That contoured
into an hourglass,

squeezing the very rasp
out of her. And how
the same word, with new
inflection, connoted a type
that flowed swiftly,
and formed a gully
she could not wade.

She taught me
the word for sorrow
that out-shrieks darkness.
That descends like gauze,
yet no beast can rip through.
A kind that fastens itself
to the span of just one day

or to a jutting peg
where cast-off jackets droop.
And when her hands measured
empty space, I saw it made
a difference whether sorrow
remained solely the vehicle,
or became the entire road.

Katie Griffiths, from Primers Volume One
published by Nine Arches Press, 2016