By: Ed McManis
The Grief of Gravity
They say it rains
diamonds on Jupiter,
Saturn too, and black
holes aren’t really
Gravity’s real, though, unless
you’re in orbit or don’t believe.
Remember, science has all
the answers you need
except for the ones
I haven’t prayed in
years, but last night
I gazed into the April
evening, words a mantra—
“Please” on the front
“God “at the end.
Constellations scattered like
salt like diamonds illuminating
a corridor for a jagged, hurried
prayer racing for a black hole,
oh so deep, deep enough to swallow
all this grief.
Had we understood
the sacred, recognized the
Angel of Death
riffling through and dog-earing
our portfolio pages; recognized her
sidekick dusting us with virus,
we would have smelled
the smoke, finger-traced
the cloven imprimatur,
remembered what to sprinkle
above each doorway,
looked twice at the image
reflected in the window
of the thirty-third
floor, arms extended
in a swan dive;
recognized all the grandmas
the worthless swirling
the tinfoil, grandpa
shaking his head,
digging out the wrinkled
gray work-shirt, slash of a
smile, gnarled fingers
creasing that last
clean pair of pants.
Moving at forty from the only home he’s known,
the one bought in a wedding deal from the folks;
the house where he raised the kids, poured the patio,
mounted the basketball goal, planted the peach
and plum trees—he stares and does the mental math
on the divorce: X alimony over Y weekends.
The mouth of the garage gapes, his yearly
height penciled on the door jamb. He’s finally
defined by the watermark just above childhood.
A warehouse of boxes waits seeking order,
all the orphaned memories clamor to jump into
his middle-aged arms.
He recreates the buzz, winning that prized Koala Bear
half his size, made in Taiwan, now huddled behind
the picnic basket, inert. He remembers the flash
of the winning free-throw at the amusement park,
his date—soon to be his wife—crossing her arms, hugging
the trophy past all those who hit the back of the rim.
Winning bathes you in the moment;
losing begs another quarter.
For no one, he mimes the shot, wrist cocked
in perfect release, as he remembers, too
that pair of ruby cuff-links won at the dart throw,
how she dropped them in the car, how he found
the one a year later, under her seat;
how he quit seeking its mate.
Ed McManis is a writer, editor, erstwhile Head of School, and father—not always in that order. His work has appeared in more than 50 publications and numerous anthologies including Narrative, Blue Road Reader, Comstock Review, California Quarterly, & others. He, along with his wife, Linda, have just published esteemed author Joanne Greenberg’s (I Never Promised You a Rose Garden) latest novel, Jubilee Year. He has two grown sons and two granddaughters.
Little known trivia fact: he holds the outdoor free-throw record at Camp Santa Maria: 67 in a row.
The Grief of Gravity:
With the pandemic, everything seemed to shrink; quarantine, isolation, sickness, fear & death. I found myself reading more about the stars, the universe, the remarkable explorations. Such a vastness, an antidote to my Zoom calls & the depressing news reports. Read this article about Jupiter and my grief sailed there.
A version of this poem first appeared after the ’08 crash. I was forced to move my family to California for work. Somewhere in the back of my mind, as things crumbled & folks went broke, I thought of my Grandma, a “Depression Baby”. She saved everything: I remember giants balls of rubber bands, tinfoil, stacks of canned peaches in her basement. And Grandpa always sitting there silently, ready to force himself to stand up & go to work.
This poem is book-ended between the move out of Colorado in ’08, a result of the crash, and then the return in 2020. Luckily, our house didn’t sell, and we returned—same junk, same garage, historical artifacts of all those days; raising kids, battling the quotidian and the subsequent treasure hunt through the ashes of those days, looking for that gem.