Poetry: ‘grief logic #6’

Prohibited from comforting him during his illness, poet Crystal AC Salas mourns the loss of her Tío.

dying patient

After seeing my community’s grief in the summer of 2020 as a result of structural and systemic violence, I noticed that storytelling for the bereaved often involves trying to rationalize the injustice and pain of loss. “grief logic #6” is also about loss, the passing of Tío, my second father. He fell gravely ill from a non-COVID sickness during the initial months of the pandemic. Hospital safety protocols meant that physical contact, a basic human need in the face of death, was not only forbidden but dangerous. I wasn’t able to bestow this tenderness upon my uncle until after he was already gone.•

for Mike (2020)

there is no holding
here  if you are trying
to stay

so this
our last closeness  at the door of history
does not matter  your breath
already thinned from the air

I kissed your brow  after you left it
though I could not
endanger anyone else  with my touch
could not hold Tía T’s hand
as your chest slowed  to stop

and I birthed your death for all others
retching into the phone

we don’t know  what’s inside of us

but somehow  are trying to stay here
I see you everywhere
I called your name in emergency
how is it
the first time I kissed your forehead
was the last?

This poem appears in the Fall 2022 issue of Alta Journal.

Crystal AC Salas’s Grief Logic is a cowinner of the inaugural Alta California Chapbook Prize and is available in a bilingual edition from Gunpowder Press.
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