Because What Does It Mean Too Often to Praise Is to Claim a Departure from This World

Sean Thomas Dougherty

The gerund of my daughter, this June day in the backyard pool splashing she seems to forget the space between earth & sky. Afterwards we walk along the splintered plywood of the pool where wild strawberries grow, we bend to eat the berries, afterwards her face covered in tiny red commas. We’ve become exiles from the ordinariness of our lives. To daughter with her wild nettled hair. If only my grandmother were still alive to teach her to speak with crows. Or the ancestors from the North of Ireland. The windswept cliffs of Donegal. Or the Jews who dug the black earth of the Ukraine. This blood in us that seethes like centuries of genocide & violins. This world of pass-ports & police dogs, stun bombs & Coltrane. That café that was blown apart in the movie my parents took me to see when I was small, The Battle for Algiers, the bodies of teenagers, how it terrified me how my parents said that murder was necessary for the struggle. They were young & still believed. As my daughter now runs with her sister across the sun-dead grass, I cannot even wish the bastards pain, the ones with their yachts & ledgers, their skyrise plantations, their necrocide, the ones who for whom the Drones drop missiles from the sky. The same sky which stretches above our eyes. We are not refugees in the green & orange light of dusk. We are punctuation marks against the silence. One day my daughters’ periods will flow, they will shake out & off their locks. And they will rise, four fisted, side by side, together fierce as Shiva. A line of crows gathers to watch us from a telephone line. I know my grandmother is there, how she could speak to crows, the deep guttural notes she composed & always the black wings would rustle & they would answer Ka Ka Ka opening a window to the world beside this world. This is an ache beyond form we carry in our skins. The way animals can tell when a storm is coming, or the way our cat can see the beings who live in shadows. But death is our domain. We daughter nothing less. We can kill over a shiny bauble. We can kill just to see something die. When I couldn’t get rid of the red ants with water, I poured gasoline into the dirt & lit the match. My daughters danced like dervishes at the flames, like Celtic warriors, like the two princesses who when the Romans were going to defeat them waited till they could see their eyes & slit their own throats. As the dirt burned the tiny bodies into ash. We are the myths we carry. But the Gods are not beyond our bodies, blazing the night into a chorus of croaks. The frogs calling to each other from the drainage ditches along the railroad tracks. Tracks like a lattice of infinitives to climb. Around the planet the amphibians are dying & no one knows why. They are the first to go & then us. It is night now. We are no more than a biography of lilac leaves my youngest daughter ate. My daughters are having dreams of tambourines & pulling the wings off of bees. My oldest one snores, like the dog. You see I am trying to tell you something, but no matter how I start it, I never quite get there. I return to what is around us. But joy keeps interrupting the familiar phonemes of grief digging my fingers into the earth.

about the author