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Liz Green

Single Mother


I’ve created disasters—some I’ve starred in, some merely

sidelined. My surgeon says that in my spine there is a bird

singing. We have been half-promised a remission


or a consequence, I don’t know. You were 40

when you loved me, you wore bright yellow dish gloves

I found alarming, your neck flushed red up


from the collar of your shirt. There was a black angel, huge,

in a cemetery in Iowa City. The graves of toddlers are hardest

for me to take anywhere. You were once a TV anchor


in Sioux Falls or somewhere else far north; snow fell

on your eyelashes while you stood outside discussing the day’s

tragedies. I have regretted everything but I will stumble forward


naked as candle wax and if that isn’t enough, how

can I show you I try

to live a sincere life? The fake fruit


in the bowl at my grandparents’ made me happy. I have

no words for this, for the light that glowed inside

the plastic grapes, the orange tree that outlived


my grandfather, giving of its miniature oranges.

You have to be careful

of your heart all the time—at dinner, and when it snows


and the lawn is a slick torrent of grief behind chainlink,

because what is wished for arrives and then you wish

you’d seen it coming.



Letter to One Far Away


We embraced inside a structure but now

I can’t remember what that structure was.

You were older; the feathers of a ruined

bird floated by and I wanted to grab one


and give it to my daughter. I have cried

through some nights and slept through

some days but we compose ourselves

in the end. Dear, my grandfather used to call


me and hold my hand on the dinner table.

Maybe I’m not remembering this on purpose

but have crawled inside a larger feeling

that has taken over my morning. I shut


my eyes: everything is possible and in a state

of collapse at the same time. People move

their lives across continents to see

what they can on the other side.

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