John Gronbeck-Tedesco is a playwright, translator and poet based in Lawrence, Kansas. His plays and poems have appeared in several venues, including the Kansas City Fringe, the Karamu House Theatre, the Cleveland Public Theatre, the Lawrence Arts Center and San Francesco, a journal devoted to medieval, Italian literature and culture.
The Suicide Sequence
1. In memory of May, 1959
Now I live far from the rose trellises
You planted near the kitchen door
(Behind the flowering peach tree
Smeared with red and yellow fruit full of spring.)
Today I recall how your eyes filled me
When I brought you a new bloom,
How you shuddered then wept when
You saw the precise wounds on my
Fingers, the color of the bright perfect petals.
2. In memory of June, 1959
On this anniversary of your death,
Between spring and summer,
When there is everything
On the trees and everywhere
The scatter of puddles—
Like so many exuberant thoughts—
I remember the roses
That bloomed in your first California spring.
Back then, new sunlight had entered your life,
And its bright unrelenting clarity unleashed
Too much of your incendiary past spent
In cold and sorrow too.
(Your psychiatrist told us—soon after.)
I wept at the funeral,
Unable to understand
Why you would leave
Us like that—me like that.
Who did you think would find you there
In your garden, come
To pick a roseTo give for your smile?
In memory of my father’s return from war, when I was 10.
Now, I cross the scrud where your blood once dropped and pooled,
When you were newly home from war—
the spittle thin and bright from wounds as deep as love—
first red then turning brown on river sand.
Two Purple Hearts
Mom told me
A metal thing, sky-born, small and quick as a thought, had leapt into you
Too close to your heart and so had to remain untended and unhindered.
“Fuck it,” you said
“It’s how we fight that crowns us; not how we end,”
And taught me to shout, “Bloody hell,”
Whenever some new dark nightmare, emitted from your body,
Scared me shitless.
Your fingers tied the knots less sure than before you left.
Then steelhead deep in clear, swift sloughs were new
To me, and I as strange and welcome to you as joy.
Now, alone I stand in prints you left to me—
The grass still marked by shoe-shaped ridges.
I cast your rod and mend to match the drift.
Then wait for memories to rise again.