Witnesses

by Kelle Groom

Kelle Groom is the author of four poetry collections: Underwater City (University Press of Florida), Luckily (Anhinga Press), Five Kingdoms (Anhinga Press), and Spill, forthcoming from Anhinga. Her memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl (Simon & Schuster), is a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, and a Library Journal Best Memoir. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, The New Yorker, New York Times, Ploughshares, and Poetry. A 2014 NEA Fellow, Groom is MFA faculty at Sierra Nevada College, Lake Tahoe, and Director of the Summer Workshops at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.

 

Rushed to my green jeep parked like a box
thin black ties their love of Jesus

Jehovah’s witnesses come to knock on my carved
white door Their pamphlet says I can protect myself

from demons by wearing a suit of armour from God
There is picture of the man Agboola who no longer

fears the dead When the Indian prayer unrolled I hung it
on the wall I’m pretty sure everyone was asleep

Sometimes I think my neighbour’s ear is pressed to the wall
listening for a tear I’m looking for the invisible ones

but the sun is closer than I thought My co-worker wants to know
why my blinds are closed He helped me find this house

and always walks by on his way to the ocean everything dark
in the child’s story the old person inside or the scarred

At the grocery store there used to be a man who would tell you the day
you were born and shake your hand—he recognized me

Do my guardians take naps when things are slow do they appreciate
the cable TV the three of them raising their eyebrows at each other

when I look in the dictionary for something to help me say what I mean
There must be more words than these I try to remember the sky

was blue before today I remember biking to a wharf
a body of water passed an apartment building where I’ll do

coke in about ten years with my boss and some strangers who go broke
the next day and ask me to pitch in for the drugs which weren’t that

great anyway The biking I didn’t know it would be to here
When I was upset my friend gave me a pixie stick

and told me to empty it into my mouth It helped My body is always
calling the police ambulance After I buy groceries smile at people

in the aisle the cashier bag boy I want to drop my bags in the parking lot
When the boy died in the movie I knew it was real a real boy had died

and now someone stood in for him and a family stood in
for his family An Irish girl sang Some people don’t know

they’re hurt walk around with blood on their faces looking for a hammer
I’ll tell you what happened the staggering tuition

Once he sat with me every night and listened
when I couldn’t talk to anyone else when I would open

my mouth to talk and cry without stopping I still remember
when he kissed my forehead he’s dead but he kisses

me before he gets out of the car I liked our talking best
across the table the way I could say what I meant to him

and he would tell the same story about the woods and the river
and his friend who caught a fish with his bare hands The friend

and the fish in a bright flash in the river He had straight red hair
Ray was the one who told me It was a bright flash.

 


Kelle Groom is the author of four poetry collections: Underwater City (University Press of Florida), Luckily (Anhinga Press), Five Kingdoms (Anhinga Press), and Spill, forthcoming from Anhinga. Her memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl (Simon & Schuster), is a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, and a Library Journal Best Memoir. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, The New Yorker, New York Times, Ploughshares, and Poetry. A 2014 NEA Fellow, Groom is MFA faculty at Sierra Nevada College, Lake Tahoe, and Director of the Summer Workshops at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.

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