Lauren Scharhag (Western Voices 2023)

Bio: Lauren Scharhag (she/her) is an award-winning author of fiction and poetry, and a senior editor at Gleam. Her latest poetry collection, Midnight Glossolalia (with Scott Ferry and Lillian Necakov), is now available from Meat for Tea Press. She lives in Kansas City, MO.


As a young girl, my grandmother, always a hellraiser, 
had been allowed to drop out of school. To keep her from being idle, 
she was charged with caring for her dying grandmother, a curandera. 
Eventually, every healer meets the disease they cannot cure. 
No amount of tronadora or nopal could save her, 
diabetes in the days when it was just a matter of time, 
the insulin treatments too new, too imprecise, and too many patients 
still ended up blind, with lost limbs, renal failure. 
My grandmother told me how she watched 
her grandmother bloat and turn black. 

Forty years later, Grandma was still a hellraiser, 
and the bedroom where she’d first witnessed death had long-since 
been converted into storage: my uncle's old 8-tracks, his drum kit, 
an avocado green dresser, encyclopedias from 1970, a broken antenna, 
a rain lamp with a nude woman in its circle of ferns and filaments, 
a bed for guests, not that there were ever any guests—

none that I could see, anyway. Grandma always claimed the room 
was haunted by the ghost of her grandmother. For what it’s worth, 
my cousins and I used to play in that room all the time, 
and I never got any vibes. This is not to say that I haven't seen the ghost 
of my grandmother’s grandmother, (in dreams, in visions, at Day of the Dead) 
or that I think my grandmother was lying because I can see 
how a ghost might choose who they appear to and when, 
and I can see how that room meant something different to each of us, 

and I, neither healer nor hellraiser, was with my grandmother 
when she died of renal failure, missing a hand. As I clean the blood
from her ring, a ring I gave her, I try to grasp something, some truth 
about full circles, about points of entry and departure, about the beads of us
like oil sliding down filament, but all I find is the shiny polyester of an old 
bedspread, yellow petals of hierba de San Pedro. A throat full of must. 
Prick your finger on a prickly pear and check your glucose levels. 
If anyone knows about the nature of transience, it’s immigrants. 
This turnstile only spins one way. Still, I grope for whatever 
space it leads to. I grope with a hand that’s already a ghost.


I don’t come from a scenic place 
my landlocked city hemmed in by steel and cement 

that’s not a complaint
I like short commutes and good restaurants

but it makes the sycamore shading my balcony
all the more precious 

the branches and seedpods it tosses on the boards
an augury of love 

something I want to take into myself
and disappear into

my winged samaras’ spiralwhisper a hymn
yes even here horned owls woodpeckers

red foxes racoons memory of buffalo
yes even here bright quartz in the creek beds

a bluebird singing from a wire 
and in city parks little brown bats vie
with streetlamps for twilight's indigo acres.


before this release you must lie 
down among the poison white baneberry 
withstand its many-eyed gaze passing 
judgment swing the thurible’s smoldering 
golden cage until frankincense touches 
each individual space and makes it holy 
stoke cleansing wildfires California
is burning and we stand together bearing
witness to the scalding sunset root-like
fingers scrabbling madly for the diminishing
groundwater talk of resurrecting the extinct
apex predator kiss the stinger of each bee then
and only then might we meet with the
penultimate catharsis as rapture a sort
of ecstasy like being squeezed through 
the eye of a needle.

1 comment :

  1. "A throat full of must." Deep poems, imaginative language!


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