The Story

We walk through the aquarium's blue light
behind the father and child he holds
up to the tank like an offering and he keeps
saying it wrong, Anna moans, look,
, the child whispering
chorus until I see in the anemones
the face of my great-grandmother Anna,
whom I knew only from tintypes
found in a shoebox soft and damp to the touch
as flesh, found as a child in her daughter's
attic, where my mother had warned me
to stay with my dolls on the open patch
of planked floor, away from the strange
architecture of trunks and boxes. A shoebox
wouldn't matter, I thought, pulling it free,
and then the face I didn't know, grieved,
though I didn't know grieving, either.
Not that year, but soon, I heard
the story over and over, how her husband
had teamed the horses and taken off
across the Hudson on a January night
and plunged through the ice; horses, carriage,
all; and not till the thaw weeks later
did they find him, washed ashore below
Storm King. They poured whiskey down her
throat to stop the screams. And then the part
I thrilled to hear: They buried her
with him
. She never said his name
againher children's, anyone's. She never
spoke. But at night they'd hear her
in her room, moaning as a dog moans
at full moon. That was grief, then:
no words for it....

Now I stare at the anemones,
their reds and purples pulsing in a rhythm
like the heart's, seeing the cascade
of leather, wheel, blanket, horse; the wild
wheeling eyes of the man powerless to stop
plunging deeper into water, the cold
shock of it, the mute screams that carried
straight to her heart and stayed there
the rest of her life, opening at night
like these flowers I imagine I can hear
breathing under water....

The child whispers again. We move
on to the next tank, red-bellied piranhas
that hang like ornaments in the water, bright,
harmless. But if the glass were to break.
He'd driven the river for years. Sometimes
she went with him, her dark hair streaming
in the wind, wild with it like the horses'
manes. The ice held them like the hand
of God, she wrote once in her diary. Or
someone who loved irony added that to what
I'm telling you now, making it up as I go,
by way of telling you all I keep being
unable to say, how losing you would feel
like losing the words to the story.


Poems by Lynne Knight:

Her Story
The Story
Not Even They Could Stop It, and They Were Myth
Boundless Kingdom
Bedtime Story
Lost Sestina
Meditation Interrupted by Bats
Bed and Bone
O, Penelope!
None of Us at Prayer

Dissolving Borders

TIMES TEN: An Anthology of Northern California Poets