EDITOR’S CHOICE: Tracing Oceans – Poem by Seth Grindstaff

EDITOR’S CHOICE AWARD: Bringing some of my favorite previously-published poems back to the front page.

Poetry by Seth Grindstaff

Even after his stroke, Pap forgot the places
he sailed in the Navy more slowly than I had
as a child on his lap. He’d have my
elementary fingers follow his, iron battleships
across an inflatable globe, a beachball
I’d rather have passed with him.

I knew he’d been to Japan already. I’d seen
the kimono hanging in the closet, peeked in
his ammunition box at the snapshots of topless girls.
He’d traveled about every which way the globe turned
at his tips which I noticed never traced into Australia.

Traveling there last summer, I mourned for the first time
three years after the fact, on the only continent
to receive his absence. Season after season of strokes
made his recliner an island of its own. As the rest of us
gathered for Mamaw’s cooking around the table, we’d
take him a plate—a difficult distance
to sense through fog, and with slurred sails—
halfway around the world,
the most isolation a globe can offer.

On the flight home, I thought I saw fingers
walking over the ocean like brush strokes
still painting where he’d been
and where he wasn’t.


About the Poet

Seth Grindstaff is a creative writing teacher residing among the hills of northeast Tennessee. His poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Sheila-Na-Gig online, The Dead Mule, Forbidden Peak Press, Edify Fiction, and has also been honored at the John Fox Jr literary festival in VA. He spends his time alongside his sun-loving wife and foster children.

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