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Flowing water

One Poem by Cody Smith

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A Friend Tells Me His Grandfather is Dying as I Write a Note to Jonathan Johnson About His Latest Memoir

for Zach Johnston

And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.
   – 2 Kings 2:9
 

Jon, those golden bricks of larch leaves must’ve already fallen
     toward you like fire-mist off the Idaho Selkirks, and I’m thinking
if I knew my life’s exact happiest moment, I couldn’t bear such grief.
   Two years living in Spokane, my family only lost power once:
Those short days in that North country, nights with no juice
     in the lines, just the family shadows in a waltz in the living room,
just the stories Thatcher spun above the fading crackle
   of Douglas fir falling to cinders, to ashes. His voice lisped
with the newness of words, the pleasure of F’s and M’s,
     long vowels lost between his teething gums. Where did that voice
go, Jon? I couldn’t sleep the night he first learned his K sound,
   him teetering circles in front of the couch chanting Cody,
Cody, Daddy Cody, burying forever the Tody which he for so long
     called me by. He wants to be a drummer, like I too once was.
Last night, he walloped moving boxes on the coffee table
   to Phil Collins singing about something coming in the air tonight
for a half hour, and I knew then that time is only mallards
     circling the reeds and cypress stumps looking for a familiar place
to light. My friend, who is losing his Grandpa back to the clods
   of red clay, called me asking what I wish I’d told my own Grandpa
as he passed. You love him, I said. Who can ask for more? Just hold his hand.
     So often the only love I pass on is some thought I think later
and with no one to tell, like this morning alone drinking coffee
   under a thunderstorm that looks to rest in place a while.
What I didn’t tell my friend is what I know now: before he goes,
     ask for a double portion of his spirit, which is something
I’m only saying this morning to my own dead grandfather.
   And even still he comes to me now to laugh and say,
Awe, Hell. You don’t want a double of this, son, his laugh
     falling off like a voice carrying farther than it should
over water before it finally falls back into the current.

   

   

   

Cody SmithCody Smith is the author of Gulf: Poems. His work has appeared in Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Mississippi Review, Gettysburg Review, and elsewhere. River Hymnal, his second book, will be published in 2025.

Header photo by Tapani Hellman, courtesy Pixabay. Photo of Cody Smith by Nichole Smith.

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