John Owen: "Grief Harbor, 1995"




Those hours the attic window reflected

my face, I watched scenes from the afterlife:          

the frozen pond stray dogs licked mid-dusk

as the ice whitened to a sheet of milk glass,

rows of houses lining the far-flung hills,

chimney smoke billowing, breaking


apart as if the flames might reassemble

and plummet back to earth.


Then the sudden moon, its silver spotlight          

spread across the tool shed’s tin roof,

and the limb shadows of mimosas spilt

onto the grass flecked with frost crystals.


In my tenth year, what did I know of grief?

The dead crested rooftop to rooftop,

passing through the latticework of spiders,

quiet as pine needles trembling on their branches.


Out there, the world was the color of iron,

and I stepped into it,


where the cold swung in like a creaking gate,

and the dead refused to leave. What did I care?

I climbed out onto a jutting branch,

and snapped off an icicle, sent it skittering

across the pond, the best place for grief.



John Owen is an MFA candidate at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he teaches composition and creative writing. His publications include in A View from Here.  In 2009, he was a finalist for Yalobusha Review’s Yellowwood Poetry Prize. For three years he served as Managing Editor for Western Kentucky University’s literary magazine Zephyrus, and he was an editor for Steel Toe Books.