Schooled in the Lesser Griefs


Not the great ones
weighty as tomes
to be learned by heart
two lines a day for life

but deaths like the crinkle
of hay or angel hair
pasta, like the sigh of pilings
subsiding into mud,
or the tearing of soggy paper:

childhood acquaintances stumbling
into early deaths,

expiring like dialects
never written down,

the extinction of tiny species
known only to their predators
and prey and to themselves.

For these, teacher,
sting my knuckles
and bend me to the slate
to scrawl a hundred times
what must be felt.

Instruct me to lie thin
over the skin of the living,

to be a smudge
narrowing to a sliver,
then a vanishing