Back to Issue Thirty-One

The Price of Strawberries

BY GRADY CHAMBERS


Approaching midsummer I said, It feels closer to the end.
Gauzy clouds, torn veils,
like a bride’s: they trudged across the sky
like ghosts. July’s stillness finally
broke—I thought of fall.

Through the airwaves, language of great consequence
flew around, losing sense. We spoke of the humidity, the price
of strawberries, when would we
stop drinking. Glenn Gould
at the piano: between the sounds of the notes
you could hear him breathe.

The first time I heard Moonlight Sonata
was in sixth grade, J said. I was so filled with sadness
at the way people treated me
I pretended to faint. Through the window, the slow build
of another memorial to The War.
I daydreamed of lobbing Molotov cocktails
at the motorcade’s heart. I pictured the moment
she’d pretended to wake,
the care on the faces
looming above her.

Green days, summer storms, conversation: This sunscreen
kills barrier reefs, this brand of broccoli
has pesticides, I got older and forgot my body
or grew accustomed to it, today I Googled
‘I’m not an alcoholic but I can’t
just stop.’ Chocolate
smeared all across her mouth. Ice cream in sunlight
on the museum steps. Dread sad
or Dreadful sad—we couldn’t decide which.
There was so much abandon.

In August the Vice President arrived,
the city shut down. Hordes of women
in red cloaks converged
on the racquet club. Silently they pushed forward
toward city hall, white candles in their hands, like an intervention’s
showering of love.

Through our windows, in one direction,
a wall of falling rain. In the other, twin spires
at night, like lanterns lit against a dark field.
A mourning orca was pushing her dead baby
for five days through the ocean.
We smoked eighths of White Rhino
through gas masks in basements,
laughing as the despots

came to power. A pair of torn pants
lay slumped on the sidewalk,
as if the boy who’d been inside them
vanished.

Down our block, the whole left torso
of an oak tree was taken off
by a passing truck. From our window,
we mourned the tree. We thanked it. In the morning,
as she slept, I checked her breath
against my hand. I gathered
the dead brittle petals
from the lilies in the kitchen vase.
With my head out the bathroom window,
I let the flowers fall over the traffic
passing on the boulevard below.

 

 

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Grady Chambers is the author of North American Stadiums (Milkweed, 2018), selected by Henri Cole as the winner of the inaugural Max Ritvo Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from The Paris Review, American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review Online, Prairie Schooner, and Boulevard, as well as previous issues of The Adroit Journal. Grady lives in Philadelphia, and was a 2015-2017 Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.

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