What the dead know
“We think we no longer love the dead but it’s only because we don’t remember them...”
The dead hold all the sadness of the living inside their perpetually closed mouths. They
speak without moving their lips as only the dead can. Not all rivers run to the sea, some
veer off in a kind of desperate searching. Loss is just another way of dying. The dead know
this, they warn whoever listens, their whispers like the creaking of old trees. You can tell the
dead anything. You can tell the dead how the fullness of the moon fills you with endless
hunger, a craving like fire for dry wood, the longing of a ship’s hull for the open sea. And all
the things you didn’t say when you had the chance, you can say them to the brush of air on
your cheek, to a name carved in stone, old bones the color of salt.
Letter to Grandmamma #12
This past week I’ve been remembering summers we spent at the old house. Full of pigeons
in the rafters, rats under floorboards. How once, you stayed up all night while we children
slept, to catch rats. All night we heard the tapping of your stick on the tile floor, the skitter of
small claws, silence. In the morning the scent of cherry blossoms was everywhere. There
were water snakes in the lake, sleek green bodies, heads rising up like tiny antennae.
For weeks I’ve had the same dream each night: I walk the streets looking for something I
cannot name, a voice, a face. Something familiar like your hands, white and creased under
the glow of a street lamp. So much happens far away from us, death for instance. What does
it mean that I still see your hands, palms up, suspended in midair? That I still hear your
voice, the trees forgot to grow leaves. Grief is the only language everyone speaks.
The children send their love. Last week Charlie dug up an old music box from under the
oak tree, the one I buried when he was born.
SHIVANI MEHTA's first book, a collection of prose poems titled Useful Information for the Soon-to-be Beheaded is just out from Press53. Her work has also appeared in or is forthcoming from Hotel Amerika, the Midwest Quarterly Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Coachella Review, Narrative Magazine, among others.