I3 Graham

My mother, blonde and bent
Cleans the garage, not even a year
After your death, pulls at the blue miles
Of dive equipment and cracked black
Hoses—more plastic baked from the heat
From the Sierra sun bleached bones
Of what used to be, for this family
The years we spent underwater.

And so, mother works, late past summer,
And needs to count
Three falling stars before going to bed.
She dreams in metal submerged by wind,
A chime from the east, where the
Sunrise continues to stretch, even over
A now half empty house.

Hours pass, become hard as quartz,
And then, one day, still sorting through
What you left behind, she finds your dive slate.
The writing is still legible,
It says: FISH EGGS.
What she sees are little sacs of life,
Bite-sized hope, oceanic youth, tart as bourbon.
Their fins kick in unison, a diligent emergence,
That rises and falls, hand-in-hand—all inside
This salty earth. Then, winter arrives.

I knew love once.
Each year, the days grow shorter in the valley,
And we learn to find beauty.
We have some of the best California smog:
An explosion of rubies and a tangerine electric
Pink that can reverberate any sky.
And then, I think of the hearts I’ve collected,
Even the ones I refused to shell open.

I taste the valley on my lips.

The locals complain about the heat, but
No one is listening, except me. Round words
Bounce inside my ears and stick to my throat.

I pay for my weekly car wash and become
Lost to a view of soap; I wait for the dryer,
My favorite part: little teardrops swim
Up my windshield, like sperm traveling north.

I stare at the dance—so, this is what it looks like,
When cosmos push themselves past the stars.

Pilar Graham is a poet and creative nonfiction writer. Pilar’s poems and nonfiction have appeared in several journals. Pilar has served as a poetry editor for several literary journals, and she has participated as a judge for local and national events. Pilar has an MFA degree in creative writing from CSU Fresno and is an English instructor at Fresno City College in California.