The Boiler

Rachel Eliza Griffiths

FRAGMENTS OF POEMS RETURNED TO SENDER 

You were waving when I looked back.
When I scraped winter from my flesh
& mimicked the silence of geese,
bruised arrows skimming grief.

Somewhere I moved beneath trees.
I’d love to name their limbs for you
but can’t you see past all that? Anatomy
says we’re all the same.
Symmetry, flawed by soul, errata,
elegy & so forth.

I was crawling across lawns,
feral & flattened
into lies & scored lines,
dive bars & overtures.
In the dark I swung my legs
across the wooden prows
of men & women lost at sea,

the misery
of a jukebox, paid & repetitive.
Appreciated for nostalgia
alone. Closer now is the absence
of snow. Because it is summer
& the heat unfastens like a black dress
around my legs. My dark cries
claw the dance floor.

Give me a call,
let me know how you’re doing,
I write to my friends
from the hospital
in a common gown of birds.

Somewhere resembles you
but it is not a location. There is no point
where the map picks up
the sum of oceans. The grid’s ablutions
raised over blue madness,

the symmetry of absence
in a mirror with no one
looking.


WOMAN TO LIGHTNING

after Ai

We rolled in flashes of God, fighting
pleasure as it tore
our shadows across smoke.

When we burned of life nothing was better
than our purgatory of embers.

I wanted a matchbox. A grandmother clock. I wanted the dark
house shingled in blue & bruised

wildfire. Touch me or, err.

How could I ever forget the shame on my floor,
a birthmark of you. I covered every mirror. I grieved
the squalls of our silhouettes, rising & dying. Once slave,
I pulled my passage over the earthly gush of swells.

Revision that I was. Passing through the aviary of dead poets,
their naked bird ribs glittering with time. The universe
pressed like a coin upon their opened eyes.

Saltwater poured over joyless shoulders
as I was carried out of my life. Through blood

I sang & erased my name
until I could only name your arrows.

I’ve got the scars to prove it.

The nights were static & strained. I left the radio low
& returned to its amnesia each morning. America,
shining like a gun. I practiced. The barrel of my voice

aimed at thunderheads & headless saints. The volume of my life
so uneasy beneath evenings of starlight & dread.

Loneliness dragged me by my hair through back rooms
where emptied velvet chairs watched me struggle
with this blow of light.

You were happy, weren’t you?

I tried to grasp the fingers slipping through
(the smear of)
my dreams. My footing struck clouds. I swear

I meant no harm.

But you were happy, weren’t you?

Like the backhand of a palm flying
to my face.

The desire in the flying,
the wing, blurred.

MY DRESS HANGS THERE
(click to read)

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Rachel Eliza Griffiths is a poet and visual artist. Her fourth collection of poetry, Lighting the Shadow, will be published by Four Way Books in 2015. Currently, Griffiths teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Brooklyn. http://rachelelizagriffiths.com/