In Paris the death toll was no longer secret
-David McCullough

A man gives me a bag filled with lemons.
He has picked them from the tree outside his house.

I picked them with love for you, he says.
The thing is I really do think he picked them with love.

I am walking past a table where two women sit.
Eight perfect wine glasses, I hear one woman tell the other.

That is all I hear of the conversation.
Before my grandfather died I held his hand & played

his bluegrass CDs. Nine months after his cremation
my mother & her brothers still hadn’t picked up his remains.

In fury I called the funeral home myself & the receptionist
shamed me. Nine months ago? she said. Nine months?

The previous Thanksgiving I brought my grandfather a wrapped
plate & homemade pie, his favorite. His bald, bony

shin was bloody & I cleaned it for him.
He handed me a sheet of paper. This is for my obituary,

my grandfather said. He had listed his Navy accomplishments.
Becoming a history teacher. Sailing the Panama Canal.

My brothers & sisters help me pay for the obituary.
A kind editor in Newcastle, Indiana sends me extra copies.

My mother does not attend her father’s wake. The more
a word is used, the harder it becomes to see.


Yet the canal was, among so many other things, a clean project
– David McCullough

I have my debts. They edit me. But a building is an ordinary thing.
Wild violets do not turn arctic accidentally. That word “alien.”
What can it love? The walls inside me are spotless, a woman says. But
she becomes vulnerable in the bed of a Governor. I prefer not to
deepen this mark. My death might be ambitious, but God tells me
I will never reach the bottom of a casket. I put him in a dollhouse
near a tiny stove. Like you, perhaps, I’ve worn anger as a rind. It

pinned me wide & open like the light. When we die, we become things.
Something between a ghost & an American tree. Presidents, they say,
are tall. But usually people don’t explain who they are & what they want.
Instead they are seated, wearing a look of sadness. Any inch of earth
could be a grave. A flock is merciful. Hope, laborious. Your American
sons become soldiers. Someone clerks for a distant Foreign Service,
acing his exams. Someone unbelts a linen dress & stars fall stupidly out.


“Now look!” Mark Hanna is said to have exploded upon hearing the news. “That damned cowboy is president of the United States!”
– David McCullough

Put yourself together carefully. Be an object, but get community.
If you want nervous tourism, surrogate. At the heart of love, fatigue. We’re taking
care of things. All borders have ghosts. Some are bright.

We pound tunelessly on blank guitars. A wife moves, mouse-like, from lock to
lock. This profits me; I am bisecting an acre of half notes. Your wife has undone
the piano. A sickling mouse, unprompted,

submits to its full stadium of fleas.

~ ~ ~

Emily Vizzo is a writer working in California. Her work has previously appeared, or will appear, in journals such as Ninth Letter, FIELD, North American Review, The Normal School, Blackbird, jubilat, Cincinnati Review, and many other respected journals. She was selected for Best New Poets 2015, and she’s previously had an essay noted in Best American Essays 2013. Poems were nominated for Best of the Net in 2015, 2016, and 2017. She is active in the literary community, having volunteered with/volunteer with VIDA, Writers Resist LA, Drunken Boat, Hunger Mountain, and Poetic Youth.