My Grandfather Says

Michael McGriff
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My grandfather says he stepped out of his dream
the same day my grandmother did
and they taught each other to speak
and so they were together,
and so entered the world:
that his heart is a torn sky, a barn on fire:
if you put your ear to his chest
as once my grandmother did
you would hear something so absolute
you would leave for the river
enter the salmon run, and disappear
through the keyhole at the river bottom:
my grandfather tells me I never had a mother:
my mother says her mother died giving birth
and became a reflection in a mud puddle
and my grandfather turned into a dog
and spent the rest of his life drinking
from the little pools in gravel roads:
my grandmother says my mother can find anything:
my grandmother says my mother
is a water-witch, and that’s why she leaves us
for days at a time and comes home ragged
and soaked with rainwater:
my grandmother says my mother
has a special branch and follows the water:
she says my mother can’t help it:
my grandfather says I was never born at all:
that I’m just borrowing this body
until something better comes along:
he says I’m half bird and half fish:
he says there is a house beneath the river
where people tell each other stories:
he says I’m taking place in a riddle where a boy
flies in two skies at the same time.

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