Back to Issue Twenty-Five.

Sphinx

BY GRADY CHAMBERS
Finalist for the 2018 Gregory Djanikian Scholars Program

Something frightened us—weight
on weight of waves
broke against the black cliffs—
a breeze blew through

the open motel door—
her dresses twitched
like tired dancers.

I saw a sparse line of birds
in the dark shapes
on the unlit sign, she saw footprints
of a girl with a missing leg.

When I was a boy
there was one night each summer
when everyone vanished,
the bell chimes sounded
the wrong hour, the traffic light
flashed its signal, a lighthouse
to an empty sea—

this was like that, fog walking in
from the harbor, sirens
from the invisible boats,
a burning behind a wall of mist.

In the morning, the black beach,
water rushing
through a rock
offshore—

we felt the scarred face
of an ancient sphinx was waking
beneath us, sand pouring
off its shoulders as it rose. 

 

 

A SUMMER

BY GRADY CHAMBERS
Finalist for the 2018 Gregory Djanikian Scholars Program

In June my dog died. By the sex shop on Belmont, a guy carried a sign
with Last Days printed in fat block letters, and he could be forgiven
for thinking so: the city was steaming; commuters shook open
their papers; capitalism seemed to collapse, then didn’t; men howled
from their jail cells all across the South. I wanted to feel real grief,
and did, the way my mother lifted the dead dog off the vet’s
metal slab, then held it to her chest as if it were a child,
and merely sleeping. But driving home, she showed me the first house
she lived in with my father. That night we cried, lit a candle, drank cold
white wine on the dark back porch. What I mean is it felt good
to sit there; it felt like I could feel time open outward like a swimmer opens
water: in July, an ex-girlfriend called about a jacket
she’d never given back. We made plans. By August I’d forgotten
the sign but remembered the man standing under the flat sky, diminished,
the grey traffic passing behind him. The heat broke;
August kept on going. I drove my mother to the shore,
scattered the dog’s ashes, dove in.

 

 

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Grady Chambers is the author of North American Stadiums, to be published by Milkweed Editions in June 2018. His poems have appeared most recently in Diode Poetry JournalNashville Review; Iowa Review Online; Forklift, Ohio; New Ohio Review, and elsewhere. He was a 2015–2017 Wallace Stegner Fellow, and lives in Philadelphia. For more information on North American Stadiums, visit gradychambers.com.

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