Elegy With Missing Slide Show Reel

Michael Mlekoday

after Betsy Sholl

One of my grandparents rented a gramophone,
another owned three songbirds and a shot glass.

One slept in the day, the other remembered
the timbre of wild horses, tallgrass prairies.

All of my belongings are loosely related
to paper; some by ancestry,
others by weight or malleability,
by color or function or analogy.

One of my grandparents
was always connected to machines.
Another witnessed Mussolini
strung up like a bird feeder.

All of my girlfriends have tattoos
in languages they cannot speak.

One of my grandparents was a darkened basement;
another was a clothesline waiting for summer,
already exploding in white and wind,
shaking like a fist at the imperfect sky.

I have a kind of recurring nightmare,
only it comes in daytime when I am awake,
but like a dream I cannot control it
and it teaches me something about falling.
In the vision, my home catches fire
like paper does, quick and forever.
I stumble from room to room,
searching for something worth saving,
but cannot choose.

One of my grandparents was a wood stove.
Another was an axe.