Seth Grindstaff

Seth Grindstaff’s poetry is published in journals such as The Baltimore Review and Blue Earth Review, and his collection Keeping Fireflies was selected for Ghost City Press’ 2021 Summer Micro-Chapbook Series. He teaches in Northeast Tennessee where he lives with his sun-loving wife and four children.

Family Tree

Where the shore gave way to mud,
he asked if I could name the tree across
the small pond. I told him to hunt for signs,
leaves abandoned among its base.

I stared at the world inverted
in still water, the tree hanging
by the red hint of evening, branches
rooted in their own winter sky.

Trees were named
before our knowing.

I saw my adopted son surface, upended
on the other side, held in that cold
reflection. He raised the remains of
a pin oak, and I named the leaf aloud.

“Who gave me my name?” he replied.
Like the smoothing of a memory turned
over and over, his question skimmed water,
broke the surface in an echo of rings.

Trees were named
before our knowing.

I returned a flat answer, and his shadow
converged into the rippling thumbprint
of the fallen oak—tree rings shaking,
mirror of maternal branches bare.

If this pond were blood and thick enough
to walk upon, would she cross it? Can I
patch this wound of water
with a stitch of stone?

Adopted Shadow

Daughter, you light the morning
breeze above our garden
with a mist of color, a prism
from a common water hose.

Your sapling fingers helped seed
the rows I point toward, and
at my side you point too—
a shadow within my shadow.

Beneath your pink ball cap, you
squint and I see your birth-
mother’s eyes, wet, seeking
the same arc promised by sky.

I wonder, wherever she is,
each time she fronts the light and
looks back, does she still see you
in the womb of her shadow?

Sidewalk Chalk

The sidewalk chalk chips its way
across the driveway in the directionless
line of our adopted son who holds it tight,
as if to mark each moment in powder.

One at a time he picks from the bucket
colors that are difficult to distinguish
pale yellows, whites, and purples. Particles
which wash easily from preschool clothing

and turn a toddler’s scabbed knees pastel.
Hues that merge like memory when wet.
He pauses to draw a circle with eyes,
ears, and mouth, then attaches a stick body

with three-fingered hands reaching out wide
in one-dimension. “I draw mommy,” he says.
And I wonder if he pictures his birth mother,
or if he shapes her from a distance as I do,

his creation no more crude than mine
after reading the DCS report.
Or is it his foster mom of 18 months
who told us her driveway had been his easel

and of how she would spell their names
on the steps knowing it wasn’t permanent?
Or is it me? His first figure to not fade
in tomorrow’s rain.

NOVUS Literary and
Arts Journal
Lebanon, TN