Grace Curtis is the author of three collections of poetry, Everything Gets Old, (Dos Madres, 2019) The Shape of a Box, (Dos Madres, 2014). Her chapbook, The Surly Bonds of Earth, was selected by Stephen Dunn as the 2010 winner of the Lettre Sauvage chapbook contest and she has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. Her prose and poetry can be found in such journals as Sou’wester, The Baltimore Review, Waccamaw Literary Journal.


By Grace Curtis

Over time, the river carves out a straighter course, pushing its way through wood and meadow like a thirsty deer. One imagines not the microcosm of urge but rather a clarity of options. Order and disorder are equally borne of effort. The river and the deer know only what they need to know of each other’s motive.

A road empties itself into the river with the indifference of a crane adjusting its form, the silver orb of a fish defining a gullet—balance of equal sides and equal curves. Home stops on the backbone of a shoreline. Something seen through the eyes of one awash in silt is a Sandhill mistaken for a Great Blue Heron.

The apple blossoms are drenched in rain, as if droop alone represents time and as if time is only a theory. The swallows represent motion. Fissures push forward from the once peaked crests of the valley. They spill out their hoard into the flow first as soil, then silt, suggesting hunger as a requiem to seasons. Every rule is ultimately broken. Brokenness suggests drift’s relentlessness, disappointment, forced renewal, the nest builder’s diligence.

The deer creates his own aphorism, a perfect blend of instinct and beauty as he dips his head to pull grass from an evening marsh. Standing hooves-in-water, he feigns nonchalance in the face of potential danger knowing perhaps there is none. Think about the way things stretch. Like a day angling toward summer, a memory. When I was five, I observed women on bent knees washing one another’s feet in a white porcelain basin, a ritual cleansing. The deer in the shadowed waters, stretching to eat, knows nothing and everything about that kind of holiness.

Within the lattice of their own vocabulary, crows coo, caw, rattle, click—a story that must mean something as each spoonful of earth’s even-turn deepens into a murmur: song and subsong. Signified linked to the signifier—charity to duty. What we say changes with both sayer and said-to, lip to lobe. For example, the story of Ruth and Naomi. In one telling Ruth exposes Boaz as he sleeps, in another she exposes herself to him.

Standing at the top of the gorge one imagines the ocean and how it insinuates itself into a plan. So many arcs have been formed at the insistence of water. But like a muntin dividing a window into lights, the trees in the stand cross-grid every idea. A house, hammer, hatch, halo around the breadth of a season welcomes the sea or pushes back depending on how close you stand to the edge.

A mourning dove rests on the deck rail staring into the neighbor’s yard sensing lines, angles, arcs. Unlike Euclid, who was so attached to proof that he never loved, the dove understands intuitively, white space. He understands his perch and everything around it, seen and unseen. He knows that once we both leave the day will simply fill in behind us as if we were never here.