grove & grave
I was born in June. Child
or windchime, all the same.
Same as puddle. Same
as dogteeth. Palmwine. Planchette.
Wildflower. Same as darkness
cradling a dot of blue,
small as a sesame seed.
Her father fled
the opened camp.
He found an ashram here.
My father fled the island
graves. He found an ashram
here. I was born
same as any other ocean
of contagious gardenias.
The first thing I said was bird,
said to her, my mother, as we sat
on the front step
We were blue, small
as wildfires, unseen
by our fathers.
They were busy casting ghosts
in farmer's formal rows, nodding
aimlessly as we fell
flickering like ash
in a boorish breeze.
II . Sólyom
Sólyom was the last street your family lived on. Sólyom means
falcon in Hungarian. I found it listed online. Your name wasn’t
there, but I saw Bela & Magda’s. I saw your mother’s maiden
name, Helena Lefkovitz. I don’t know if you know this but your
mother’s mother was named Mili Kóhn. Your father’s mother
was named Regina Lusztig. I saw your last name, not Austin as
you passed down to us, but Auspitz, a found joke, unbearably
close to the name of the camp.
I couldn’t find a meaning for that name, Auspitz. There’s no coat
of arms for that sort of thing. It’s just a branding of letters
echoed a handful of times in deportation records, left on Ellis
You were just William of Falcon Street. A sweat-yellowed patch
on your mother’s blue coat. A traincar talon puncture through
Polish tongue. A headlight beam through a forest with a foreign
Now you’re William Austin of Chicago. Your family is all
younger than you, & it’s been that way since 1946. You collect
flowers on 35mm ribbons. You walk past brownstones, alone
before the streetlamps hush. You’ve never gone back to Sólyom.
You never will. You probably don’t even remember its name.
But I know that you remember theirs— siblings & parents
tattooed & piled in a field. & I know that you remember ours,
the names you invented for all the living things that came after,
the breath consisting of birds given birth because of you.
III. Edith & V
Edith & V / married July 25 1959 / veil held by a circlet of rice /
& found shells / bouquet / white carnations & stephanotis /
church / chrysanthemums & pompoms / tying the knot / of the
livingroom noose / came later / sometime between my father’s
first breath/ & my own /
Edith & V / lived in Nassau / not the plantation house in
Exuma / where my great grandfather made guava jelly / but in a
house on another island / closer to the hospital they both
worked in / same hospital where Edith gave birth to my father /
same hospital that paid V to diagnose his partner / when she
woke screaming in the carnation-colored room / with the
guava-colored windows / & I don’t actually know that she used
a rope / sometimes I invent a gun / too afraid to ask my father
how / & watch his lips wither pale as stephanotis petals /
Edith & V / are now an unmarked wood bathed in shaken sea
grapes / a feast for the wild dogs of the hollow guava house /
you can see the whiteblue sea if you stand in their shadow/ there
is no such thing as chrysanthemums or pompoms anymore /
there is no such thing as Edith & V / except in the unseen
portraits painted in my father’s eyes / watching me / after so
many windborn seagrape summers / arguing with my own living
mother / so selfish & unfurled.