Who do you know who is desperate to live? You don’t see the ghosts, but I do. The head opens. Fog denses. In one asthmatic breath the quiddity of time recoils. A thought that keeps me going is the impossibility of an ancient leaf, how roots centuries deep continue to produce something new. Really, though, what’s new? In a different poem, mom became grandma not because they are the same person but because I am. That’s not new, but old. Dad used to ask “what’s doing” instead of “what’s new?” A Brooklyn thing, maybe. Special combo of what’s new & how you doing. The fathers on the block all used to call one another “Moey” even though that wasn’t anyone’s name. Their names were Charlie, Dave, and Dolor. “Hey Moey what’s doin” the olly olly oxen free of Gerritsen Beach. “Hey Moey what’s doin” Dave would say from his porch to Dad and they’d chat and crack open a can of beer as they grilled. “What’s doin”-- I used to hear it all the time, but no one says “what’s doin?” in their poems. I’m desperate to get out. To do something new. But not like Charlie who used a gun or Dad who used liquor not like anyone I know because that would be old and doing something new means new things to be doing means what’s doing is what’s new. One year, when everyone was still alive, a young couple moved across the street. Dad, Dave and Charlie threw a welcome party. You can imagine how their cheers started to raucously grow when, wouldn’t you know, the new neighbor extended his hand and introduced himself as Mo.
I can’t say my mother didn’t warn me. One night I sat on the corner of the tub as she ran a bath. Lavender warmed the air. She told me no she begged me to stop
indulging the habit. Her hand held mine. I looked her in the eyes and shook my head, but not in the way she wanted. Uncle Bruce told me Dad never had a chance.
My grandmother burnt herself to death. I’ve never called her that, grandmother, always my father’s mother. I never met her, but from pictures it’s clear we share the same legs. My grandmother burnt herself to death from a lit cigarette and drunken stupor. My father got there too late. My father fell to his death from a drunken stupor. His name was Dolor. Mom fears I have his fate.
-- Abriana Jetté is an internationally published writer and educator whose work has been featured in Best New Poets 2022, Teachers & Writers Magazine, River Teeth, PLUME, and more. In 2023, Abriana received a Finalist Award from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and their work has also been supported by the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, the Sewanee Writers' Conference, the Southampton Writers Conference, and more.