Each time I meet my grandfather in a dream
he speaks only German—reminds me to speak
only when he’s a ghost. He hums between
the chimes of the Black Forest cuckoo,
takes the pick out of his teeth
when he looks my way:
Kennst du mich nicht? ::
Weißt du nicht wer du bist? ::
I want to bring him back to Chicago, but
we’re lost in fields, midwestern soybeans.
And when he fades I cry out:
Wo bist du? Wo bist du?
When my grandfather dies
his body deepens into the soybeans.
I try to excavate him,
but all that is left of his bones:
empty gin bottles that perfume his tongue,
model train tracks set in a circle.
I look for a way to bear him back—but I find
myself wandering to his old house,
burrowing inside the fireplace,
pulling logs he had chopped around me
like blankets. When his ghost comes to light the fire
—the only way he knows how to heat
the house—I let myself burn with it.
The Embalmer haunts my grandfather back to the South Side of Chicago,
where he beat me for building with my left hand instead of my right.
I extract each cluster of edelweiss, de-construct each petal a tomb.
Clay: quarry and kiln—let it sharpen like an eyetooth.
Brick: measure weight in hand—consider its flight
through the window :: a way out.
Rough-hewn stone: walls built up in Chicago,
then hidden between fields of soybeans.
Nested in each hard, scarred pod is one of his bones.
The Architect shoos the Embalmer away
—lets me sleep—gives me the time to turn back
to stone dust or the silky powder of soot.
Born and raised outside of Rochester, NY, Erin Kae is a proud graduate of SUNY Geneseo. Her poetry has been featured in Vinyl, Sonora Review, Crab Fat Magazine, and Fugue among others. She was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize by Aster(ix) Journal, and was selected as a finalist for the 2017 Locked Horn Press Publication Prize for their issue Read Water: An Anthology, 2019. Her first poetry chapbook, Grasp This Salt, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2019. She currently resides in Somerville, Massachusetts.