Heaven Only Knows
My roots are Russian and German, making me
eighty percent Bond villain, but I smile too often
to ever be convincing. Besides, I was raised to be
good, to never leave anyone out. It’s how my mother
lived, my father insisting that her gravestone be
engraved with the phrase “friend to all,” her
openness a legend, every cashier and server and kid
on the block drawn into her welcoming circle.
If it is true that the dead watch over us, then
my mother is flinching at the way I throw the word
fuck around like confetti, though she once
scored one hundred points spelling genitals
in a Scrabble game. My father perches on my shoulder
whenever I make a purchase or a decision – Do you
REALLY need that? Is that what you REALLY
want to do? – and then offers me a shot of brandy
for my migraines, which I do not want or need.
It comforts to imagine them holding up numerical
placards like ice skating officials every time I write
a poem or pull weeds or clean the kitchen, always
a 9 or 10, their judgment colored by love and distance.
But with that distance, each day they grow a little
fainter, and it scares me. In my earliest memory,
my father prepared to scale and gut the catch
my brothers had pulled from the lake, and I plugged
my ears. I didn’t want to hear the fish scream.
But I am listening now, In the night, I hear them
whisper, When will you stop writing about grief?
Donna Vorreyer is the author of To Everything There Is (2020), Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story (2016) and A House of Many Windows (2013), all from Sundress Publications. She hosts the monthly online reading series A
Hundred Pitchers of Honey. Her work has appeared in Salamander, Salt Hill, Baltimore Review, Poet Lore, Sugar House Review, Waxwing, and other journals.