We never spoke of what my body
couldn't do, so when Jen and Kay
left to pick apricots from the spindly tree
behind the library, I hesitated.
But Rich would be there.
I showed up in a wraparound skirt,
my excuse to stand at the base,
pluck from the bottom branch.
The fruit was concentrated at the top.
While the others climbed, of course
it was Rich I watched, squinting
up at him as I had all summer.
The night before, he'd finally
kissed me, his tongue tentatively
grazing my own. Catch, he called
now and I lifted my skirt to form
a net, no thought to palsy, to exposing
my uneven legs. When the first
tangy oval dropped into the voile
I had already begun to taste it,
how it felt to be chosen. And whole.

* * *


I think of the Hulk, that bulging creature
outlined on my son's green t-shirt.
It barely fits him anymore,
now that his father's body asserts itself in him,
widening the plain between his shoulder blades,
fleshing out his thighs. What pulkas,
my mother would say were she here to pinch them.
His legs are suddenly log solid.
Their stance, a man to be reckoned with.
Understand, there was a man I learned
I couldn't live with, who couldn't live with me.
Yet here he is, testing the seams of my son's clothing,
refusing to keep to the confines of my past.

* * *


Ethan pulls Dan, almost at a run,
toward those massive structures that rise
and dip like the outlines of distant hills.
Their plan, to conquer all of them
despite pounding rain. I read Hemingway
in the shelter of the food court
where they appear occasionally,
flushed and dripping in their ponchos,
to describe the fastest, the longest drop,
the one that whips like the tail
of the guide dog we left at home.
Thumb keeping place in my book,
I think about what men build
through shared bravery and fear,
and marvel at my twelve year old,
willing to hold Dan's hand in public
for this greater good. There are moments
on the Storm Runner, the Fahrenheit
when I know he closes his eyes
to see how it feels to Dan, this man
who might have been his father
had I a better time of it
early in my own wild ride.

* * *


From where I stand my old home
is a backdrop, the Chrysler
in it's layers of tiaras, Empire
State, a candleholder for a single
candle, a single wish. Nights, the city
lights become my constellations,
a consolation for the endless stars
their bright life drowns out.
And what about this river?
What is it in the dark but an ink splat,
the story of my passage to this other,
tamer side, with all the lines I recognize
as fiction emphatically crossed out.


*All of the poems above are from Gritz's recent book Geode, reviewed in this issue of Wordgathering. "Testing the Seams" was previously published in Literary Mama.


Ona Gritz is a poet, columnist, and author of two children's books. She has two books of poetry: Left Standing, was published by (Finishing Line Press, 2005) and Geode (Main Street Rag, 2013). Gritz's essays have been published in The Utne Reader, More magazine and The Bellingham Review, placing second for the 2008 Annie Dillard Award for Creative Nonfiction. Gritz's monthly column on mothering and disability can be found online at Literary Mama . She has received nine Pushcart nominations.