CG’s hair is grizzled & yellow from peroxide baths & age,
like the hibiscus he coaxed into bloom, held gentle
between the rope-warped joints of his middle & ring fingers
to show me at six—just old enough to repeat his syllables
back to him, too young to remember. His eyes didn’t stop
flicking over the flora he rooted in broken PVC piping—
this was his watermark on the mountain, his chaos
garden with Biblical names he would exhale low
like still waters. I’ve returned, walked the gravel
like a ghost trying to fit my sneakers where his boots fell.
The peroxide didn’t save him; nature has retaken the slopes,
greens & browns billowing up from run-off ditches,
shading the pretty, delicate things out of existence.
My eyes flick: up to the dilapidated house, to the gully
left of the road, to the mass of summer swallowing the rise.
I am my grandfather, searching for something that can’t be found,
but there! Bursts of color! Pieces of his weathered soul
resilient against time — a decade passed & still, his blood
in generations. I did not understand, childhood a blanket
over my eyes, the tenderness of his cattle-drive fingers
as he cupped a life in his hands, not plucking it. Now,
a bloom on the gravel by our feet: yellow, but laced
with death. I stoop to one knee, brush the clay from its lips.
Riley Woods is a recent graduate of Stetson University. His work covers a variety of topics, often in an attempt to peel back the layers of self and societal formations. He will be attending the University of Montana's MFA program for poetry in the fall. His work has appeared in Oberon Poetry Magazine, Backlash Press, Obra/Artifact, and The Bees are Dead.