Four Poems by Rebecca Griswold


Thirty-three autumns. 

More autumns than I have names 

for; this season of ash and wilt, I count 

backwards but I’m still here, in this one. The past 

is impassable; a choked-out tunnel I find, over

and over again. Behind pine boards, the secret 

passage is full of rubble; shale, dolomite

rocks mined in Ohio, brought by dump truck, 

impossibly, over time. Every minute 

swallows back more at the exact pace I could dig, 

so I don’t. 


Where would I go, if I could go, anyway? What’s waiting 

for me, whose body can I enter, like a spirit, move 

their arm with my arm, leg with my leg, to what purpose?

Why walk down the same street over again? 

Where is the fun in knowing the weather for the day, the exact 

moment gun-gray sky will relent, clouds will wring 

themselves out over me. Our charcoal cotton shirt drinks the rain, clings 

to skin, your skin, and eventually, my skin by proxy. 

This is the closest we will ever be. 

I spiritually unzip you, climb into


your ribcage, unfurl myself to every corner of you, 

my fingers brim the glove of your skin. Some of me is bursting 


at your seams. I’m taller now, and bright with time. 

If I walk us back to the tunnel, will you dig for me there?


Sweep the Barn Floor

the dirt and dead birds,
the threshing floor
cut baseball cards from 1940
and a fencing suit
that belonged to the landlady.
At that time, who were we?
while she wove her sabre like a needle
en garde, heavy, lunged her opponent 
breath labored under mask.

We were specks, little ideations
nothing more. We were cuttings 
from the rose bush, stemless, round
flowerfaced and no thorns, not yet. 
The barn and the house kept time
tapped impatient feet
in syncopation. They waited on us 
for 133 years. The barn burned out
the top floor, lost. Still, it keeps
secrets, parts held on and hidden

for you, dear one. I see your face shine,
see your delight as you pull treasure
from nothing, My explorer
unearther, Allez.


Milk Teeth

Small maple jar 
like perfect bones 
belonging to the vertebrae 
of a small mammal.

Dientes de leche arced 
in a handwritten font.
I don’t know why 
my mother kept them

or why I’ve kept them too, strange 
treasure. I tip them out carefully 
and stack them back inside; 
tooth Tetris.

The broken bits are fine powder 
I excuse to the floor 
with an exhale.
I run the shiny side of a molar 

along my lips, the grooves catch 
slightly as the enamel glides.
The roots are gone, leaving 
calcified chambers on the underside.

One tooth, pewter striped amalgam, 
like a nail forced in,
or an unearthed piece 
of howlite with its silvered vein.

Two wisdom teeth, still caked 
in dried blood, a ruddy brown,
sound like two acrylic beads 
as I strike them together,

or the slight tick tick 
of a clock. 


St. Bernard Soap Factory

Symmetric stone-stepped gables bookend
an ivory clock tower, a Midwest Amsterdam
imitation saddled along Mill Creek.

The smokestack is a blown-out taper,
smoldering since 1886,
an industrial smudge stick.

My grandfather is here, in 1933, and once someone 
figures out travel across time and space,
we will finally meet.

Or in Youngstown, breaking horses.
Or on the farm in Pennsylvania, up at sunrise with the cows.
Or in the doublewide in California, worrying about the bakery,

over coffee.
Or in New Zealand, fetching Olive after the war.
Tending the sheep while mom walks to school.
I’ve been working out the mystery of you; 
excavating, collecting the spectacular and the ugly of you,
trying on the cloaks of your mythology

to understand the shrouded quarter of my DNA.
The St. Bernard Soap Factory still stands,
a white brick guidepost, 

a monument to your past,
or a hollowed-out husk
where history embalmed itself.

Rebecca Griswold is an MFA candidate at Warren Wilson. Her debut collection of poems is The Attic Bedroom (Milk & Cake Press, 2022). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Cimarron Review, Autofocus, Revolute, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, and others. She owns and operates White Whale Tattoo in Cincinnati alongside her husband.