The poetry of CL Bledsoe

6 Short Poems about Grief


My father shoveled his grief
into the flowing water of his
life. The first shovelful
would wash away if the flow
was too swift. Some days,
the mud was thick enough to
stand. Quickly, another plop
until he’d made a wall. In this
way, he built his days.


Drunk, if we could afford it,
we gathered in the woods,
some trash place no one wanted,
dragged our grief to the gasoline-
doused pile, and watched it burn.
Over the crackle, we cracked
jokes. The smoke bored a hole
in the sky that would never
accept our lousy souls.


Once a year, my mother would bring
her third grade class to the pasture
and have a picnic under my sister’s
favorite tree. On top of the ridge,
behind the house. You could see out
over the neighborhood, below to
the west and north, the Lake’s jiggly
waters to the South, past the pine trees at
the top of the hill. This is the tree with
the low branch Boo used to push me
onto so I could ride it like a bull. Who
knows where all those kids have gotten
to, Mom and the tree, long since gone.


I wish I’d been old enough, had
the forethought to tell you no matter
how old I make it to, I’ll miss you
most days. Of course, I’d never
want you to know that, and worry.


There was a girl in my senior high
school English class who tried to
tell us the cartoon The Smurfs
was Satanic because the cat was
named after an angel and was
enslaved by the man named after
a demon. Its purpose was to
indoctrinate children into Satanism.
Her name was Mary Claire. How
could you make up a more innocent
name? She was always nice to me,
or at least not mean, when other
religious kids mocked my long hair
and poverty, my undiagnosed
bipolar 2. Her Youth Pastor told her
this, about The Smurfs, a 20-
something when she was a young
teen. They eventually married. No one
said anything, so I didn’t either.


I never thought there was a way out
of my grief, so every time a window
opened, I was too busy smelling
the breeze to shimmy through.





You can’t cross the street without bumping
into ghosts. Some, in your head, some,
the long-dead victims of convenience.
All of them were surprised to learn this
was all there really was, as you and I
will be, even if we think we already know
that. Everything dies, even prisons. Rivers
die much quicker than one expects. None
of us is innocent, no matter how hard
we’ve had it. Yesterday, I saw you driving
that ratty old SUV that’s almost as ugly
as your couch. There were tiger lilies all
along the road, and I missed you so bad
it hurt, a bad back in the morning, but
in my head. The you I knew, the one
that laughed at my stupid jokes and sat
on my face, the one I tried to make
something lasting with is just another
ghost. The thing is, I love your SUV almost
as much as your couch. You’d open
your townhouse door and hold me, while
I awkwardly closed it behind me. We’d stand
until it was dark, the day behind, another
ghost, as it was getting too late for dinner.

CL Bledsoe latest poetry collection is “Trashcans in Love.” His latest novel is “The Funny Thing About…”. He lives in northern Virginia with his daughter and blogs, with Michael Gushue, at

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