By CL Bledsoe

A rice farmer, my father shoveled
his grief into the flowing water
of his life. The first shovelful
would wash away if the flow
was too swift. Some days,
the mud was thick enough to
stand. Quickly, another plop
until he’d made a wall. In this
way, he built his days.

Drunk, if we could afford it,
we gathered in the woods,
some trash place no one wanted,
dragged our grief to the gasoline-
doused pile, and watched it burn.
Over the crackle, we cracked
jokes. The smoke bored a hole
in the sky that would never
accept our lousy souls.

Once a year, my mother would bring
her third grade class to the pasture
and have a picnic under my sister’s
favorite tree. On top of the ridge,
behind the house. You could see out
over the neighborhood, below to
the west and north, the Lake’s jiggly
waters to the South, past the pine trees at
the top of the hill. This is the tree with
the low branch Boo used to push me
onto so I could ride it like a bull. Who
knows where all those kids have gotten
to, Mom and the tree, long since gone.

I wish I’d been old enough, had
the forethought to tell you no matter
how old I make it to, I’ll miss you
most days. Of course, I’d never
want you to know that, and worry.

There was a girl in my senior high
school English class who tried to
tell us the cartoon The Smurfs
was Satanic because the cat was
named after an angel and was
enslaved by the man named after
a demon. Its purpose was to
indoctrinate children into Satanism.
Her name was Mary Claire. How
could you make up a more innocent
name? She was always nice to me,
or at least not mean, when other
religious kids mocked my long hair
and poverty, my undiagnosed
bipolar 2. Her Youth Pastor told her
this, about The Smurfs, a 20-
something when she was a young
teen. They eventually married. No one
said anything, so I didn’t either.


I never thought there was a way out
of my grief, so every time a window
opened, I was too busy smelling
the breeze to shimmy through.

*From my collection Grief Bacon

Stuff My Stupid Heart Likes by CL Bledsoe (co-author of and The Wild Word:

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