Four Poems by Donna Spruijt-Metz

Day 0: Shekhinah
           —in the Form of a WaltMarie

Something wakes me in the night—
gently,
ruach, a breeze, a feather lightly down
my spine
—her gloaming mists along the ceiling—the veil cracks,
opens.
I fall through, into a private moment between her and
her death
—what can I do but be present—an early witness to what
comes next.

* 

Day 1: Buck Moon

Jess died this morning
at Buck Moon. Good choice, my friend—so full,
that I can’t manage the news, although we knew
it was coming. Can’t manage the full
moon rituals. I try an anagram
of Jess died this morning.
I get as far as ‘Goddess inherits’
This seems right. I have leftover letters
—j, i, m, n—not so solvable.
That seems right too. All my rules—
broken.

* 

List Psalm for Day 2: A Ledge Just Wide Enough for Grief*

1. Everything vapor, hot. No mercy. Hike uphill.
2. Mourners clumped under a sliver of shade.
3. Pall bearers along a narrow path, seven stops.
4. Lower her into the earth’s wound.
5. Our peoples’ strict small interval between death and burial.
6. I praise YOUR precepts. They predict our taxonomy of needs.
7. Because, because, because.
8. The rabbi reads from words I didn’t know she wrote.
9. Maybe I never really knew her.
10. Describe ‘knowing’ a person.
11. The rabbi throws the first clump of dirt into the grave
12. onto the casket—sounds of hail on a tin roof. Do we startle?
13. He absolves us all from any wrong we might have done her,
14. absolves us from all we failed to do for her.
15. I think; barely believable.
16. I feel; a lightness.
17. We take turns. We sweat. We beast. We claw & shovel the soil until the casket is covered.
18. Fully.
19. Only now, may the ribbons be torn.
20. Only now, may the mourning begin.
21. The mercy of it.

*From Meg Day, Last Psalm at Sea Level

* 

List Psalm for the Days That Follow

1. Concatenate—to link together—especially that which seems un-linkable.
2. Dreams often play loose with physics.
3. I’m not thinking straight today because it is Wednesday.
4. Best plan of action: Avoid interpersonal disaster.
5. I seem to be playing loose and fast with physics, myself.
6. Today is actually Monday. But it behaves like a Wednesday.
7. What a pathetic tangle. We move past concatenation into conflation.
8. Yesterday was the second formal day of morning because it was Sunday. We had to skip Saturday because it is Shabbat and Shabbat is always a holiday.
9. No mourning on Shabbat. That’s one of our laws.
10. There will always be a Shabbat during shiva, always a day of rest.
11. Built in. This is genius. Because shiva is exhausting.
12. In general, the laws of my people are well crafted.
13. (If we ignore a slew of them).
14. Ever noticed how the ritual ‘shiva’ is spelled the same as the Hindu deity ‘Shiva’? How we skip these stones across cultures and languages?
15. If it wasn’t Monday tamquam Wednesday, if I wasn’t tangled in the sheets of mourning, I would try to think about this—there is a metaphor in here somewhere. It is likely a good one.
16. Or we dream—skipping stones across shores that were never

*

Donna Spruijt-Metz is a poet, a psychology professor, and a recent MacDowell Fellow. Her first career was as a classical flutist. She lived in the Netherlands for 22 years and translates Dutch poetry to English. Her poetry and translations appear in Copper Nickel, RHINO, Poetry Northwest, the Tahoma Literary Review, the Inflectionist Review, and elsewhere. Her chapbooks are ‘Slippery Surfaces’ (Finishing Line Press) and ‘And Haunt the World’ (a collaboration with Flower Conroy, Ghost City Press). Her full length ‘General Release from the Beginning of the World’ is forthcoming (January 2023, Free Verse Editions). Her website is https://www.donnasmetz.com/

Four Poems by Donna Spruijt-Metz

Sarah Returns to Me as Kirkland Culinary Parchment Paper

I’ve got Adele blasting on repeat, my earbuds in,
even in my own studio. They seem better at blocking,
better than surround sound at drowning

it out, drowning out your absence. But it’s no use. It’s the fifth month
of noise. By now I know the signs, yet it always catches me
off guard. My peripheral vision

shimmers slightly right before you

show up. Tonight, you take the form
of the jumbo box of parchment paper
you once bought for us. I touch the box, you

brush my shoulder. That’s how it goes. I shock to stillness,
vision vibrating on infrared, feeling the warmth
of your slight body,

As if you were unhung. As if the scaffolding
were undone. As if magic, like the way that roll
of parchment doesn’t ever seem

to run out, oh restless ghost, the way
you did.
I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be unkind. I am just

howling into your vanishing point,
which has so expertly given the illusion
of death.

*

Sarah Returns to Me as a 100% Organic Cotton Round
                            “Touch, as a form of collision;”
                                                —Carl Phillips

You once asked if I needed them. I didn’t think I did.
But you, in that way of yours—being so unsure of the needs
of love, or friendship, or even a conversation—yet confident
in your knowledge of the objects that people needed—comfort
by vegetable, by rice, by small porcelain bowls of great
simplicity and thus great beauty, by mobile phone stands—I stand
before the mirror tonight, cotton round in hand, and I hear
cotton round’—in a voice that is undeniably yours—your accent—you,
giving all the ‘o’s their due, their roundness.
—I’m a little spooked, yet glad of the visit—thinking how it might
have been for you—towards the end—unmedicated, hearing voice
after voice after voice—or maybe ‘after’ is the wrong word—’so many’
you once told me—and some worse than others.
But what do I know? You asked me if I needed ‘cotton rounds
Yes. I learned to need them.

*

Sarah Returns to Us as a Dwindling Supply of Active Dry Yeast

I carry my laptop from desk to kitchen. I paw through the refrigerator,
looking for what we might need—which would, of course, not be there, so
I am looking for what is absent. I return to my screen. What am I missing?
‘Baking supplies,’ the shopping bot suggests. ‘Baking supplies,’ I murmur.
My husband says he has everything he needs, except soon he will need yeast
for the first time in almost two years. At the beginning of the pandemic,
everyone decided to bake their own bread. There was no yeast to be found
anywhere—no yeast to make our breads rise. Sarah found a bulk package
of yeast for sale at a bakery. She was brilliant that way, in her finding. We
divided it up, bagged it and froze it. Little bags of ascension, islands of clear
speech, just waiting for us to reach into where things are frozen, and retrieve
them.

*

Sarah Returns to Us as an Eviscerated Dog Plushie

saturated with saliva—the pups worry it, fight
over it, pull each other across the floor with it—jaws
clenched down hard on it. It’s the effigy of a doctor—a gift
from Sarah—the idea being that since our daughter
is a doctor—I don’t need to finish that thought—or maybe
I can’t. Who could understand her multitude twisty path-
ways to kindness? This particular destroyed toy had escaped
the rubbish bin—hidden itself behind the couch,
and tonight, it was miraculously (if you are a dog)
fished out—but what do we know of destroyed?
The dogs are ecstatic over this foul shell of a thing
—as if it somehow brings her back—
even though they had long ago pulled out
the stuffing—disemboweled the squeaky part.

*

Donna Spruijt-Metz is psychology professor, poet, and recent MacDowell Fellow. Her poetry appears in Copper Nickel, RHINO, Poetry Northwest, the Tahoma Literary Review, the Inflectionist Review, and elsewhere. Her chapbooks are ‘Slippery Surfaces’ and ‘And Haunt the World’ (with Flower Conroy). Her full length ‘General Release from the Beginning of the World’ is forthcoming (2022, Free Verse Editions). Her website is https://www.donnasmetz.com/