Bifurcation: Path

The lights flicker 

in my mother’s dining room. A stranger calls me 

by my dead grandfather’s name. 

Events are only connected 

if we want them to be. 

Perhaps the past whispers

through string-punctured cups, and that

is the language of grief

we struggle to translate.

My fingers tap out 

a seven-digit rhythm on my palm 

but the dial tone is the sound of a scream 

stuck in my throat. 

In the mail, a magazine arrives

from summer 2018. Five years ago. 

You were still alive. When I returned 

to your woodshop that fall 

you were half there 

half gone, as though I was looking 

at your image in a mirror

while I stood off to the side. 

You spoke of our student

who set himself on fire 

and you flickered. 

time is a spiral staircase I’m fallingdown

the center ofyou loved thatboy like a son

he lit upone nightin a carin the foresta

supernova burning so hot 

it became 

a black 

hole 

sucking 

everyone around it 

into grief, 

where there is no time, 

maybe, just a path 

into the darkness 

where we can’t

see the reverberations 

of the choices others make, 

can’t see the byway

they led us down

until we’ve followed it

to the end.


Emily Light is a poet, educator, and mother living in northern New Jersey. Her poetry can be found in such journals as Inch, Salt Hill, Cherry Tree, terrain.org, and RHINO, among others.